Just before finishing 1th grade, in May 2004 I participated in the program Close Up Washington. This program realizes a series of one-week-long activities for USA, and its territories, high school students so they can learn about the Congress, Government and democracy. I went with eleven other schoolmates and, of course, a teacher from high school. The program arranged the stay for every participant at the Chevy Chase Hotel, where we got most of the activities, but on Wednesday we were taken to the Capitol.
The morning of Wednesday May 5, 2004 I got up early at 7:00 am and dressed in my black blazer and matching skirt and went down to the hotel’s restaurant to eat breakfast. As I entered the restaurant my nostrils were filled with different scents from the continental breakfast. Freshly brewed coffe, hot milk chocolate, warm french toasts and oven warm bread. So many delicious things to eat, where to start? I made my choice and went to a table to break my night’s fast.
At 8:00 am we were told to head to the bus to go to the Capitol to meet the Resident Commissioner of each participant’s state, Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner at that time was ex-governor Anibal Acevedo Vila, but our appointment was until 4:00 pm, so we were left in front of the Capitol. As soon as I steped out of the bus I immediately regreted wearing a skirt, the temperature was 44 degrees Celcius and it was windy. My skin was crawling all over, but our teacher told us that she was taking us to see some walking distance attractions and I was thankful to warm my body. We went to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, the Museum in front of the Ford Theatre where Lincoln was assassinated, the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the National World War II Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Holocaust Museum.
The Holocaust Museum was the most impressive one to me. Not because of the building itself, but for the story it told, the true heart breaking story of the Holocaust. The Holocaust was the state-sponsored persecution and murder of aproximately 6 million Jews by the Nazi regime (read more at www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005143). The Museum presents a narrative history using more than 900 artifacts, 70 video monitors and four theaters that include historic film footage and eyewitness testimonies. I knew about World War I and World War II, I knew that the Jews were the most to suffer, but I didn’t know the details. The Holocaust Museum opened my eyes and crushed my soul.
As I write this, tears threaten to spill at the memories, it is such an emotional place. One exhibition in particular pops into my mind. It’s a big room with a long runway with rails at both sides and at both sides countless shoes. Shoes that were worn by the Holocaust’s victims, and died in them. Yes, shoes from the World War II. Have you ever smelled old shoes? Well multiply that by, I don’t know, maybe a million. The smell is vague in my mind, but I remember it wasn’t a pleasant smell for anyone. As I went from one exhibition to the next I discovered different perspectives and feelings that overwhelmed me, but at the same tim helped me to understand better the suffering of these human beings.
I highly recomend this place for everyone, but not for those who are very emtional who even cry at the sight of tears, like me. I’ve known of people who, besides me, have cried at these events, and I know that we won’t be the last ones to cry because of the holocaust.