When I arrived at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on July 19, 2017 I took a minute to wander. I said ‘hello’ to the Holocaust survivor who was sitting at a desk greeting visitors and I noted the sign on the information kiosk which advertised a book signing that afternoon. Then I headed up to the library where I had spent weeks on the research for Tutti’s Promise. I reintroduced myself to the librarian, thanked him for the help he had given me four years previously, and let him know that his assistance had contributed to my arriving here on this day.
From the library I headed into the permanent exhibit. I had already spent hours and hours there in the past and didn’t want to take it all in again. I just wanted to remind myself of the atmosphere and feelings it gives the average visitor, so I moved at a deliberate pace. When I approached the cattle car, however, I had to stop. I stood for a long time envisioning my mother as a young girl, cramped in the corner, scared and confused. Being in that car is beyond sobering.
Then on to the bookshop. As I entered I saw the six foot table with piles of Tutti’s Promise and another announcement about the book signing – my book signing. The staff was friendly and let me settle in, noting that if I needed anything I should just ask.
Over the course of the afternoon I smiled, I greeted people, and I talked about Tutti’s Promise, my research, and how the book came to be. The cast of characters that I met was wonderfully diverse. I talked with:
- the woman who wanted to hug me
- the eighth grader who wants to be a writer and kept saying ‘thank you’
- the Ukrainian immigrants who left their homeland to escape anti-Semitism
- people who thanked me for sharing my family story
- the Belgian Orthodox Jew who was looking for books written in Hebrew
- the group of ten young African-American boys from Florida who were brought on this trip by their church
- the tallit weaver on a road trip from Arizona
- the teachers looking for classroom resources
- the young sisters who asked me several questions about writing
- the two deaf women who I was able to communicate with in my very limited ASL
- the young lady who had just returned from a Birthright trip through Israel
- and the Australian woman who stood before me and burst into tears.
These were Jews and Christians, Europeans and Americans, Asians, Blacks and Whites, children and adults, teens and tweens, Southerners, Westerners and Mid-westerners. All these people had shared a special experience that day. They came to the museum voluntarily even though they knew it would be upsetting. They developed a better understanding of prejudice and genocide and what happens when a group of people is dehumanized and eventually hated. They all came to learn. They were all changed by the day. And I was honored to be a part of that experience.