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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.

I had 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!!! 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 NOW!!!" 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 bomb threat.

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 ever experienced.

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.

Today blood was spilled on the floor of that hallowed place. And I am sad. Very sad.

Contributed by Sharon R. Becker, June of 2009

To contribute to "Tales from the Front Porch: Ringgold County's Oral Legend & Memories Project"
contact Sharon R. Becker at
srbecker@windstream.net.
Please include the word "Ringgold - Front Porch" in the subject line. Thank you.


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