Wow… when Becky suggested we visit The National WWII History Museum I did not anticipate such an emotional experience. After about four hours my brain is now full.
There were many things that were what I’d classify between “neat” and “cool.” They were items like guns, equipment and uniforms. We saw some “awesome” things too like bombers and fighter planes. Along the way there were some “interesting” facts learned about the war that I’d never known. Neat, cool, awesome, and interesting…
… and then there were the powerful, gut wrenching, sobering, and heartbreaking. Those were the moments when I caught myself getting choked up with emotion. In a couple of spots I just had to walk away or risk full blown tears.
There was the powerful story of Patton having to stop his first visit to a concentration camp due to how difficult it was for him to see. Stories of so many gut wrenching events like the bombings of so many cities including the deaths of so many innocent civilians. The sobering reminders of how Japanese Americans were put into internment camps, causing us to do the very thing we were fighting against.
Of all of the things I saw, read, and heard today there was one simple item that will remain with my soul for eternity. It was so heartbreaking that I will never forget it. This one sheet of paper reminded me of the humanity that was lost in the war. Over 3% of the world’s population was extinguished in this event, and each of the lives lost was an individual like me, Becky, and my family. Between 70 and 85 MILLION voices muted for all history.
The item that brought it all home for me? A slip of faded yellow paper. A telegram. “The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret…”. In those and the following lines of text I was reminded that what I had been seeing as just numbers were people. The connection that note made between the astronomical and mind blowing number of deaths to individual lives was heartbreaking in a way I’ve never before experienced. The sheet of paper and the intense feelings it brought with be with me forever.
I am so thankful for this history lesson today. As we walk from it I feel exhausted but so grateful for the experience.