There is a railroad box car perched upon a trailer in the parking lot of the Marco Island Charter Middle School. It belongs to the Holocaust Museum & Education Center of Southwest Florida. The day it was brought to the campus, I walked around it, looked under it, walked up the stairs to the door and touched the wooden siding. However, I was unable to bring myself to go inside it. What this railroad car represents is a most horrible time in human history. As I kept looking at the railroad car, images of young and old men, women and children younger than my grandchildren appeared before me. They were being marched into this dark and dingy windowless box, driven miles and miles away for days at times and ended up in death camps where they either starved to death, were tortured or killed by poison gas. I finally sat down next to the railroad car and thought how absolutely inconceivable such a horrible thing could have taken place under the eyes and noses of millions of people around the world and no one even lifted a finger to stop it.
But then reality hit me. We are now in the 21st Century. Communicating with all parts of the world is easier than ever. IPads, IPhones, Laptops, Internet, etc., etc. They are all available to all of us. Yet, today in April, 2012 a dictator in Syria is bombing his own people, killing them by the dozens in front of our eyes, driving them to refugee camps in neighboring countries and all we hear from politicians and so called world leaders is lip service. “Let’s pass the one hundredth resolution throughthe United Nations, (the world’s most useless organization) and feel all warm and fuzzy that they will do something to stop these atrocities. Let’s go to political rallies and scream at the top of our voices “this is unacceptable.” “We will use every means to stop it. Nothing is off the table” and then go home and wring our hands and count how many votes this strongly worded speech will produce for us in the next election.
In the meantime, hundreds are being left homeless; dozens are killed, injured or maimed in Syria. What is wrong with us? I continue to sit on the steps by the trailer and keep looking at the railroad car. I wonder what those innocent Jewish people thought when they finally realized that this may be their last trip? I wonder if they thought someone will come to their aid, stop the craziness and let them go back to their homes. I wonder if they thought that this situation was unacceptable by any measure of imagination and it had to be stopped before it was too late. I wonder what they thought as they were stripped off all their belongings, clothing and dignities and marched towards the dreadful, grey buildings. Did they think they were going to be gassed? Or were they told they were going to get hot showers before being issued their prison garb? All these questions without answers are churning in my head and I am getting sick to my stomach.
What is wrong with us? What happened to humanity when we see with our own eyes and hear with our own ears what the dictator of Syria, Assad, is doing to his own people? Howcan any legitimate leader of the free world go to bed at night without thinking “what can I do to save these people from a monster?” It is hard to sit here next to the railroad car knowing that the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, preaches to his people that “Holocaust never happened; it was created in the minds of the Jewish people to make the world feel sorry for them.” This is reality folks. We live in a very cruel and selfish world today and it has never been made clearer to me than being next to this brownish, wooden railroad car sitting atop a trailer in the parking lot of the Marco Island Charter Middle School.
I am very glad that this relic was brought to the MICMS campus. As we get older and move away from the events of World War II; as our memories fade and we lose our focus of historical facts; it is absolutely necessary to show our children and grandchildren that, “holocaust did happen. It was horrible. The world stood by in absolute denial as millions of Jews and other minorities were killed in concentration camps and gas chambers.”
They should all understand the meaning of this terrible atrocity and be reminded that this could happen again and again and again.
I walk down the stairs from the trailer carrying the railroad box car, a relic from a miserable time when the entire world shamed themselves. I wipe the tears on my sleeve and hope I am not noticed.
Tarik Ayasun is a member of Vice Chair of the Code Enforcement Board and President of the Marco Island Charter Middle School Board of Directors, he has given many years of community service to various organizations.