Friday, April 18, 2008


When we picked George up from school after he got home from his Washington DC trip last week, he was tired. Their flight was delayed and they did not get to school until well after midnight. He was excited and happy to be home. Gillian made a “Welcome Home” sign for him as well as baked a cake with her Grandma to welcome her big brother home.

We were all too tired and it was way too late for cake so we all went to bed as soon as we got home.

After our typical Saturday morning routine, we sat down with George to hear all about his time. He told us about, Williamsburg, Monticello, Georgetown, Gettysburg, Amish food, the Capital, National Archives, Mount Vernon, the FDR memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, the war memorials, Arlington Cemetery, the Eternal Flame, Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the National Cathedral, Spy Museum, Union Station and more.

He had a lot to say.

I asked him, “What was the best part of the trip?”

“Well, I would not say the ‘best’ part but the thing that I want to go back and see again is the Holocaust Museum.”

My wife and I were a little surprised because we were sure it was going to be the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Arlington that he got to participate in but we were wrong.

“I could not stop reading. I just wanted to read everything in there. They gave us these cards with people on them that were there and they had a story about their lives. I just feel like I want to read everyone’s story. Even the little kids have their own story. I feel like I should know who they are."

"There’s this one part where you walk through a box car that was used to transport the people to the camps. When I was in there I could just feel the fear. It’s like it’s still in there. I was standing right there where people died standing up because they were packed in. People that were being sent to die. It makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about it now.”

I saw him start to tear up a little and he paused. After he caught his breath he continued.

“I saw the rooms they slept in and the bunk beds. They even had this one part where you walk through this sea of shoes. I swear you could swim in these shoes there were so many. They have one pair for every person who was killed. I couldn't believe it and you just walk right through the middle. It was awful to think about all those people. Why would anyone do that? Who could be so ugly?” He stopped again.

He handed us some things he bought from the museum as keepsakes. One was a postcard of the room he described with the path through the huge pile of shoes. I read the words on the picture and welled up too.

"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"

My son is growing up so quickly. I can hardly keep up.

I am thankful that his heart is well ahead of him.


Sara said...

You have an amazing son, but I think you already know that.

Also, I think his school must have used the same tour company my school did, because I think I took the EXACT same trip in 8th grade.

Meghan said...

Talking to him on Sunday was amazing. I was blown away by the Museum of Tolerance when I was a sophomore. It's amazing that at his age he can appreciate the magnitude of it all..

I know I say this all the time but your kids rock.


Araby62 said...

Very profound and moving, George. Thanks for sharing this.

micksmom28 said...

I have been to Wash DC three or four times in my lifetime (so far) having family that lives there and have seen everything EXCEPT the Holocaust Museum. I have been to the one here in LA, but I know the one in DC is much bigger and probably more mind boggling. I'll have to put it on my list next time I go. George is so touching, I can't wait to hear all about his trip!

Jillian said...

Okay so I definitely need to make a trip to some of those museums. Like a lot of people who live outside of DC, my family doesn't take nearly enough trips into the city.

George should read "Night" by Elie Wiesel. You raised an amazing kid!

Donna said...

This was very moving. You're right; George's heart is well ahead of him. What a great kid.

Oh, and how sweet of Gillian making a sign & baking a cake for his return. She's a great kid, too.

You are really blessed, George.

Hannah said...

Not only is your kid great, but it was great to find this post today of all days. Nigel was just in DC with his 13-year-old nephew yesterday, chaperoning a school trip at the Holocaust Museum, and was telling us about similar experiences. He said the poem about the shoes is engraved into the room's wall, so you read it as you are surrounded by everything.

He said he stood alone in the train car and swore he could feel it moving.

His ex-girlfriend's grandparents are Holocaust survivors, and at one point in the museum, there is a broken stained glass window from a synogogue (sp?). He recognized the name on it as the name of Anna's grandmother's synogogue in Poland. He pointed this out to his nephew, that Anna's grandmother had probably once sat by this window as a girl, and they were both moved and amazed.

It's definitely somewhere I think I need to go and experience.

Scott K. Johnson said...