On March 20, a group of twenty teenagers of Colorado anxiously awaited the arrival of another 20 from Seattle, who would quickly dive into a four day journey to help them discover not only the brutality and misunderstanding of the world, but the exact antithesis. The Anti-Defamation League sent us 40 teenagers to the nation’s capital in order to be educated about the Holocaust, and not only the event itself, but its several surrounding ideals and causes.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
The first day of our trip was mainly to get ourselves acquainted with not only the new arrival of companions, but also the area and the hotel we were staying in. The Anti-Defamation League booked us all in Embassy Suites, a hotel that was more luxurious than any hotel I had ever stayed at. After being given our itineraries and getting settled into our rooms, the second day began with a group workshop. After four hours of discovery and learning, we were rewarded with a tour of the D.C. area, a beautiful setting full of cherry blossoms and statues crowded by the hustle and bustle of the capitol’s busy residents. We went to several locations, including a newly constructed WWII memorial, Korean War memorial, and Vietnam War memorial. Following our tour, we were even given an opportunity to go shopping at Union Station, which is when I really connected with two of my greatest friends on the trip. With half of our journey already passed, our group secretly anticipated the true purpose of this trip, our visit to the Holocaust Museum.
The third day began with the forty of us receiving journals and t-shirts; the former to document anything we felt necessary, and the latter so that our group, who decided to travel by foot and subway, would not be separated. Our arrival at the museum marked the beginning, for several of us, the opening of eyes to the true tragedy of the Holocaust; for others, it caused confusion, questioning, anger, and several other inexplicable emotions. Throughout the remainder of the afternoon, we were given several hours to reflect upon our feelings, while in the evening, we actually dined with a Holocaust survivor. That night, we all gathered after the departure of our survivor for an event called the Candlelight Reflection. I can easily say this was the most emotional experience of my life; throughout the course of the day, everything that I had seen at the museum seemed to hit me all at once. I confessed these feelings while practically sobbing in front of these individuals standing in a circle before me, some who I had only known for two days. After we all reflected upon our visit, the circle broke into individuals meeting others, embracing and comforting their emotionally broken companions.
The rest of the trip seemed to go on as a blur. Before our departure on the fourth and final day, we were given a tour of Capitol Hill, and afterwards, our friends who came from Seattle departed about an hour before us. Tearful goodbyes were seen all around as we realized the same fate was in store for us soon. One delayed plane trip later while waking up to an episode of Samurai Jack on a Frontier Airplane, and I was back in the arms of my family, who obviously questioned me extensively on the trip. Although I was able to explain what I had seen and heard, I knew then and still know now that I will never be able to fully express the emotional and spiritual awakening present to such an amazing trip.
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