TALES from the FRONT PORCH
Ringgold County's Oral Legend & Memories Project
National Holocaust Museum, Washington, D.C.
After my job and place of employment was sent to Mexico, I returned to
school. In April of 2005, one of my classes went to Washington, D.C.,
primarily to sit in on a Supreme Court session with regard to a case
that we had been studying. Of the two days we had free to see the sights, I spent
the morning visiting Arlington National Cemetery - visiting President John F. KENNEDY and Robert F. KENNEDY'S
gravesites - watching the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, touring the cemetery and
looking at the monuments - and was to re-join my group at
the National Holocaust Museum. I was running a little late but expected to meet
up with the group inside the museum, knowing that my ticket for admittance would be
left for me at the front desk.
just entered through the door of the Holocaust Museum and a 10-year-old or so
girl was behind me and had walked through the entrance. Suddenly, the
alarm went off and they immediately shut the doors,
armed security guards jumping out from everywhere. Herding
us away from the entrance - the little girl trying to get
back to her family and security yelling at us and all.
No one knew what was going on and a lot of us were asking,
"What is going on?" Which was answered by "MOVE!!!
Not knowing what was going on, and thinking at first the
guards were yelling at me because I was breaking line to
get my awaiting ticket, I said to one of the guards, "You
don't understand, my ticket. . ." Which was met with "MOVE
I took the girl in my arms and held her close, her body
sobbing violently and guided her along with the rest of
us to this little cubicle in the back of the museum. By
this time I was crying too, not knowing what was going
on. This one high-society type man went up to the guards
and said, "This is America - you can't hold us." The guard said
to either rejoin the group or he'd be escorted out of the
building. He re-joined our huddled group.
No one told us for about 20 minutes what was going
on. And we were scared, most of us. A lot of us crying from
fear and shock. We huddled together in a tight group, shoulder
to shoulder, standing in the middle of that cubicle. Just the
sound of people sobbing. No one spoke a word.
Finally we were told it was okay to leave the cubicle. I passed
an older guard and asked him what had happened. He said the
museum gets bomb threats every day and they had just found an
unattended backpack. Plus that noon they had received another
I still had my arm around the little girl and helped her find her
family who were frantic - being suddenly separated like that
and they not knowing where she was, what was going on.
They thanked me and I said that I was a mother and I didn't
do anything any other mother would do for a child suddenly
separated from her family.
After all of that, I then began to tour the museum, thinking the
entire time that what had happened to us lasted only 30 minutes.
What had happened to the Holocaust victims lasted the rest of
their lives, most of the children who did survive never being
reunited with their families.
I think what got to me the most was the exhibit representing the piles
and piles of shoes. The next exhibit was a 3-story high hallway full
of pictures of the victims from the floor to the ceiling, covering both
of the walls. They were tiny passport like photographs, so you
can imagine how many photographs were hung on those walls. Then there
were artifacts of childhood - a doll, a crudely fashioned wooden toy
truck - left behind after the little girl and boy had died.
When I got through the museum, I found my group but I was so
overcome with emotion, I had to sit down for a while. My instructor
sat with me and held my hand while I tried to regain
control. She sent one of the other kids to get me a cold drink. I
was drained that night from all of this and stayed in my motel room
instead of going out for dinner. I don't think I could have ate anything.
It was probably one of the most overpowering emotion I have
Throughout today, June 10, 2009, the news anchors gave updates with regard
to the shooting of a security guard at the National Holocaust Museum, renewing
my memories of the fear and shock I experienced when I was there in 2005.
The museum is a somber thought-provoking homage to those who died because of
who they were and where they lived. It is a memorial for the dead and a reminder
for the living in hope that something like that never happens again.
blood was spilled on the floor of that hallowed place. And I am sad. Very sad.
Contributed by Sharon R. Becker, June of 2009
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