Tag Archives: Washington DC

Memories Matter…Never Forget – International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Eternal Flame at the Holocaust Museum’s Hall of Remembrance

Memories Matter.  Never Forget.  Those were the words that Holocaust Museum volunteer, Harold “Hal” Wittman spoke to me and asked me to repeat when I visited the Holocaust Museum in May 2014.

I was in Washington DC for a conference and visiting the National Holocaust Museum was high on my list.  I arrived right when the museum opened on my last full day in DC,  thinking I would only stay for a short while and then walk on to the Washington monument.   Four hours later, I left the museum feeling so saddened by what I had seen there but also determined to share my experience and the words that Hal repeated to me as I was preparing to see the permanent exhibit.

When I arrived that morning, there was a Holocaust Survivor scheduled to speak in the auditorium.  Volunteers were encouraging people to go and hear the survivor speak so I walked in and an elderly gentleman was seating people.  As I walked toward this man, he directed me to a seat and then told me to keep the seat next to me – on the aisle – free for him.  He needed quick access on the aisle so I did as he asked.  As the program started, he took his seat next to me.  We didn’t speak until the presentation was over and I began a conversation with him.  I really don’t remember what I said to him but he thanked me later for “taking the initiative to stop and talk.”  Hal and I continued talking for quite a while and we shared many stories and opinions during this short time.  I talked about Hispanic issues in Alabama and he talked about things to see at the museum that resonated with him.  We stood in the auditorium for so long that the moderator for the presentation with the Holocaust survivor joined us.  I don’t remember his name but he was a local newscaster and he knew Hal and easily joined into our conversation.  Both were very interested in what was happening in Alabama surrounding immigration issues which I wasn’t expecting.  After the moderator left and we were walking out of the auditorium together, Hal suddenly stopped, turned to me and said he wanted me to repeat something he was about to say.  That’s when he said to me “Memories Matter and Never Forget.”  I repeated these words back to him and he smiled at me.  It became my mantra that day.

It was getting close to time for me to go through the permanent exhibit but Hal wanted to show me around the main floor.  It was great having my own personal guide through the museum.  We walked through Daniel’s Story, an exhibition for children,  as well as the Wall of Remembrance filled with tiles made by children and dedicated in 1993 to remember the children who lost their lives in the holocaust.  We spoke for so long that I missed my tour time but Hal walked me through the long line of people and straight to the elevator so I could get through.  Before I got on the elevator, he gave me his card with his phone number and said, “I don’t want to be forward but I’ve so enjoyed speaking with you. After you go through the exhibits, I would like to hear your thoughts on what you see.”  I told him I would be happy to share my thoughts with him and took the card.  Then, before the doors closed he said to me again – “Memories matter – never forget!”  I repeated those words back to him…

With those words freshly planted in my mind, I went through the exhibit.  I will tell you that it isn’t an easy museum to go through.  I had moments where I had to just stop and sit for a while because it was so overwhelming.  There were several times where what I saw just took my breath away. One of those times was when I walked through the “Shoe Room.”  As you walk through, you don’t see much at first but you are hit by a smell…a smell of mustiness.  Then as you look closer, your eyes are overwhelmed by a sea of shoes – thousands and thousands of shoes on either side of you.  As I looked closer, I was moved to tears.  There were shoes for all walks of life – men’s shoes, women’s high heels, slippers, children’s shoes…and there were baby shoes.  When I saw the baby shoes it made me think of a young mother carrying her child, getting on a train and not knowing what was to come of their lives.  I was looking at the soles of these shoes and sensing the souls of the people who once wore them.  Then I read the quote on the wall…

“We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses.  We are shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers from Prague, Paris and Amsterdam, and because we are only made of fabric and leather and not of blood and flesh, each one of us avoided the hellfire.” – Moshe Szulsztein

I ended my visit at the Hall of Remembrance.  An Eternal Flame burns on a black marble block which contains dirt from 38 of the concentrations camps in Europe.  Also included is dirt from a cemetery in Europe where American soldiers are buried to honor the American liberators of the Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps.  The quote on the wall is from Deuteronomy – “only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully, lest you forget the things your eyes saw, and lest these things depart your heart all the days of your life.  And you shall make them known to your children, and to your children’s children.”

This is where the words “memory matters” really made sense to me.  These words from Deuteronomy are about the responsibility of memory.  My visit had come full circle thanks to Hal and the words he asked me to repeat.

Later that evening, I called Hal and shared my thoughts on the Holocaust Museum.  I told him I wished I could have spent even more time there because there was so much more I wanted to read and learn.  He was pleased with what I shared and repeated those very important words again as we finished our conversation.  After we hung up, I wondered if Hal had family impacted by this time in history.  I’ll never know but as a volunteer for the museum, he was so invested in sharing the story of the Holocaust and making sure that people who visit understand what happened and share their experiences in their corners of the world.  I’m forever grateful that I met Hal that day…and I’ll always remember those words he shared…Memories Matter / Never Forget.

 

Black and White Photo Challenge

You’ve probably seen the black and white photo challenge on Facebook these past few weeks.  You get tagged, you post one black and white photo a day for seven days, they can’t be of people and you can’t describe the photo (“no words”) – and you tag someone else to challenge.

I got tagged a week ago and decided it would be a good time to go through some of my photographs.  To say I take a lot of photos would be an understatement!  I used to think my dad was nuts when he would use up an entire roll of film on a single flower.  Now I get it!  And with digital photography now…gosh…just keep snapping away until you get the image you are looking for!

The challenge made me remember what it was like to take photos with film.  I remember buying black and white film at times to experiment.  I always loved the effect and the detail of the photos when I would have them developed.  And speaking of getting photos “developed,” it was always interesting to see what the final result would turn out to be when you picked them up from Walmart or Walgreens.  For the most part, you just never knew!  My dad took so many photos from the time he moved to Bangkok, Thailand for his work and bought his Leica camera.  This was around the time he met my mom.  Going through his photos and slides is always such a treasure to me.  It’s like seeing the world through his eyes at that point in time.

These days photo editing lets us take color photos and turn them into black and white, or sepia or other artsy variations.  The photos I used in the black and white challenge all started out in color but I used my Camera+ app to convert them and get them just right.  I am still amazed at the detail that comes through with the conversion.

Here are the photos I used in the challenge, only this time I’m breaking the rules and telling a little more about them!

Day One – Taken at a winery in January 2010.  This was our 25th anniversary trip to Napa and the wineries were pretty empty as the holiday and new year’s rush was over.  We received tons of extra attention from the wineries since they weren’t getting a lot of traffic.  I loved the way the wine barrels were lined up at this particular winery and the lighting was just perfect in this cave where they were all stashed.

Day One – Black and White Photo Challenge

Day Two – My husband and I visited Ft. Worth, Texas earlier this year and visited the Stockyards.  We heard about the daily walk of The Herd and positioned ourselves directly in front of where the herd made their turn.  We couldn’t believe the horns of these magnificent creatures!  It felt like this one was looking right at me and saying “take the picture already!”

Day Two – Black and White Photo Challenge

Day Three – This is a portion of the Four Little Girls monument called “Four Spirits” on the corner and across the street from the 16th Street Baptist Church.  It was unveiled in September 2013 and received a lot of traffic.  Everyday leaving work, I would pass it and see all the people taking pictures and paying respects to the four little girls who were killed when the church was bombed in 1963.  One evening I left work early and spotted the monument virtually empty.  Fortunately, I had my camera with me and pulled right up and was able to take a number of photos including this one.

Day 3 – Black and White Photo Challenge

Day Four – In 2011, I was attending a conference in Washington, DC.  My colleagues and I were able to take some time to tour a little and it was unanimous that we wanted to go to Arlington Cemetery.  Seeing all the white tombstones stretching across all the hillsides was a sobering sight.  Everyone in our group was silent but emotion was visible on all of our faces.  Converting this photo to black and white, I believe, shows this emotion.

Day Four – Black and White Photo Challenge

Day Five – This was taken on a very cold day after a little snow in Alabama.  The birds were going nuts in our backyard and flying all over the trees most likely in search for food.  Our bird feeder was empty so I’m sure this was their way of telling us to get it filled again!  This little guy decided to pose for my camera despite all the flying and chirping going on!

Day Five – Black and White Photo Challenge

Day Six – For our 24th anniversary trip in 2010, Eddie and I went to Callaway Gardens for the weekend.  We toured the beautiful grounds one day and found this beautiful chapel – the Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel.  What I love most about this photo is the reflection of the chapel in the water.  Such a beautiful place!

Day Six – Black and White Photo Challenge

Day Seven – My last photo is of my favorite subject…my puppy, Lucy!  Lucy loves the snow and this was photo was taken on our back deck where she was frolicking and trying to eat the snow.  I think the coldness of the snow makes her frisky!  This is one of my favorite photos of her too with the snow falling on her black ears and one caught in flight right in front of her left eye.

Day Seven – Black and White Photo Challenge

If you like photography, I would encourage you to take a few photos and convert them to black and white.  Then, compare the color and B&W photos side by side and notice the difference in detail and dimension.  This black and white photo challenge was just what I needed to take a critical look at my photography.