“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” -Malala Yousafzai
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” -Harriet Tubman
Seeing as yesterday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 71st anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz, it is only fitting that we take some time to remember those whose lives were so tragically taken away, all too soon. I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to listen to Michael Marder, a Holocaust survivor, share his personal story yesterday afternoon. This incredible man was able to survive nine different concentration camps, but unfortunately, no one in his immediate family had such luck.
Hearing Michael Marder tell his story reminded me of just how important it is to continue to share such stories so that we never forget about the atrocities that took place not too long ago. And with that, I’d like to introduce you to part of the Gottheim family. The woman in the photo is my great aunt (my grandmother’s mother’s sister), and pictured alongside her is her husband and three children. Unfortunately, they were never given the opportunity to tell their names, so all I have is a last name to go off of.
The Gottheims lived in Poland, but upon hearing of a potential German invasion, they made the necessary plans to make the trip to America by boat. When they arrived to the docks, each member of the family was inspected to make sure that they were in good enough condition to travel. However, as it turns out, one of the children had an ear infection and wasn’t allowed to board the ship. The father told the mother to take the other two children to America, and he would follow shortly after, once the child recuperated. The mother refused, and instead suggested that the father take the other two children to America, and she would follow shortly after, once the child recuperated. The father also refused, and the general consensus was to wait it out together, and make the trip as a family, once the child got better.
Unfortunately for the Gottheims, the German invasion came sooner than they had expected, and the family was murdered in their home before they were able to escape to America.
11 million people were killed during the Holocaust, 1.1 million of whom were children. 6 million of these individuals were Jewish, and others who were targeted and murdered include persons with disabilities, people from the LGBTQ community, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roma, Slavs, political opponents, and plenty others. So many of these people died without their stories being told, which means to us, they will sadly forever be nameless and faceless. Like the Gottheims, millions of lives were cut short, and who knows what kind of greatness these people could have gone on to achieve?
One would think that we have since learned from the Holocaust, but it was not the first act of genocide to take place in the world, and unfortunately, it was not the last. If we do not remember the atrocities that were carried out just a few decades ago, we will be bound to have history repeat itself. We must never forget the Holocaust, and we must always speak up whenever we see any one person or any group of people being targeted by others. We owe this to the Gottheims, to all of the people who perished during the Holocaust, and to the survivors like Michael Marder who have dedicated their lives to spreading the word about the inhumane treatment they endured.
Martin Neimöller, a well-known pastor once exclaimed:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Yesterday, my brother, sister, and I participated in the Miami Half Marathon for the second year in a row. We wanted to run in an attempt to raise money and awareness for Misioneros Del Camino—a cause that is very important to us all. After months of training, the big day had finally arrived! And go figure, it just so happened to be the coldest day of the year here in South Florida (which we were very thankful for).
We woke up at 4:00 in the morning to get some last minute carbs and protein in for breakfast, and made our way over to the American Airlines Arena, where the race was set to begin at 6:00am. When we arrived, we walked over to our assigned corral, and were in the company of 25,000 runners from over 80 countries!
Running throughout South Beach, Downtown Miami, and Brickell was invigorating, and the sights were incredible! What I enjoyed most about the event was the amount of individuals on the sidelines and all throughout the streets who cheered us on. Complete strangers spent their entire morning motivating us to keep on running. It was absolutely beautiful, and it made the event even more memorable. And running alongside thousands of individuals from all over the world, and working together to reach a common goal by pushing one another forward was incredible. After 12 full weeks of training and 173.06 miles completed, we crossed the finish line and were finally ready to rest!
This experience was definitely one to remember, and seeing how many loved ones came together to help support our cause has left me speechless. We were able to raise over $2,700 these past few weeks, which will help provide four children special education and daily therapies for an entire year—all for free at Misioneros Del Camino! Thanks to everyone’s help, we have been able to positively affect the lives of numerous children, and we will be able to help give them hope for a brighter future; one which they deserve! I could not be any more grateful or appreciative, and for that, I thank you all.
With today being December 31st, it is no secret that people nationwide are making last minute attempts at creating New Years Resolutions and fine-tuning their goals for the upcoming year. What I find interesting (even though I’m guilty of it as well) is that so many of us wait until January 1st to begin to follow through with ways we believe will better us. If our resolutions don’t work, or if we simply cannot stick to the plan we set out for ourselves, well, there’s always next January 1st for us to try again.
If we could move past the concept of New Year’s Resolutions, we could work on continuously trying to better ourselves. Moreover, we’ll have an entire year to hold ourselves accountable for our actions, rather than just waiting for a “re-do” twelve months from now. What is important for us to remember during these upcoming weeks of “resolutioning” (a new verb that’s quite fitting for this time of year) is that one minor setback is not a failure; we must not allow ourselves to get discouraged if things do not go according to plan. There is always tomorrow to wake up refreshed and begin from where we last left off. If we can view New Year’s Resolutions as the Year’s Resolutions, maybe we won’t be so harsh on ourselves. And maybe we’ll realize that our goals can be fought for at any given moment of any given day—not just for the first few days in January.
With that being said, one goal that I set for myself this past year was to continue blogging, since I had taken an extended break before the year began. Just this year alone, individuals from all around the world stopped by my site to read what I had to say. To me, there would be nothing more rewarding than knowing that one person (not including my mother) occasionally glances through my site. However, to find out that more than 2,000 visitors from sixty-nine different countries read my thoughts, experiences, and stories throughout the year is beyond overwhelming.
Just this year alone, my blog has had more visitors than the last three years combined. To my fellow bloggers, readers, and friends from 2015, I extend my sincerest appreciation and gratitude for your support. (In the tag section of this post, I’ve included the country of each visitor throughout this past year as a special way of saying thank you since it’s much easier than hand-written notes).
May 2016 be a year to remember, and may all of our resolutions come to fruition, regardless of any potential setbacks we may experience along the way. Happy New Year to all of you, and thank you, once again.
It was September 11th, 2001 and I was in my first grade home-room class at school. For some reason our teacher was moving about frantically as another teacher came into our classroom and whispered something in her ear. We were told that school was going to be let early and that our parents, who were already notified, would be picking us up shortly. When asked what the reason was, we were told it was because of a flood that was about to hit our area.
Just the other day on the radio, they had mentioned that South Florida was experiencing a drought, so a flood didn’t exactly make much sense. But we believed our teacher, and began packing up our pencil cases and school supplies from our cubbies because we didn’t want anything to get destroyed by the flood. My mother picked me up from school shortly after, and explained the true story—there was no flood. Rather, our country had been attacked by terrorists. Upon arriving home, my mother and I turned on the television just as the second tower of the World Trade Center had been hit. We were left in awe.
My father was flying to Washington D.C. that morning and my grandparents were flying to Florida from New York. We hadn’t heard from anyone, and we, as well as the rest of country were left in a state of panic and disbelief. Luckily, my father’s flight ended up being cancelled and grandparents’ flight had an emergency landing, but not everyone was that lucky.
September 11th, 2001 was a tragic day in history for our country, but it was also one that taught us a few valuable lessons. We cannot take our loved ones for granted because we never know what will happen at any given moment. We must show appreciation for those who risk their lives to protect us on a daily basis because these are true heroes that help make our country as great as it is. And furthermore, our country is about as resilient as they come.
September 11th showed us how in a time of despair, American citizens came together and united as one. Fourteen years later, we are still a united country, and we are still just as resilient. May we never forget September 11th, 2001. May we never forget to say “I love you” and appreciate our loved ones. May we never forget those who lost their lives, and those who risked their lives helping others. And may we never how lucky we are to live in such an incredible country.
It’s important to make time to partake in activities and events that bring us joy. For these will be some of the greatest memories we remember and look back on years from now.