Essay Contest

Second Place

Learning From Disaster

By: Katriel Freeman

Sophomore, Carolina International School

In our world, tragedies are frequent. We cannot change the past, but by taking what we have learned from hardships, we can improve the future. However, we still have a lot to discover.

The holocaust was a dark time that none of us will ever forget. I think one of the biggest lessons learned from that disaster is to be more cautious. Jewish people in particular, did not believe that anything so terrible could happen. There were warning signs of an upcoming disaster, but the people did not believe. It is very difficult to trust anyone anymore. Before Hitler murdered masses of people, Germany as well as the rest of the world thought he was a great man. No one would have ever believed he would do what he did. Hitler was a hero to many- and then the holocaust happened. He was a conniving and convincing speaker. People believed him even when he said horrible things about Jews. How could we have completely overlooked him? Anybody, no matter how civilized they seem, is capable of the most terrible evil.

The second and more important lesson I feel we’ve learned from the holocaust and awful situations such as racism in the 1960’s is that we should never discriminate against another human being based on race, religion, or beliefs. The world has learned to better value and respect human life. The holocaust was a result of prejudice. We witness this kind of hatred daily. Gay harassment is a perfect example of every day prejudice.

At the time of the holocaust, few people escaped the concentration camps but those who did told their story to anyone who would listen. The problem was that nobody really believed them. The Jewish people did not have support. The media called them crazy and everyone moved on with their lives. They brushed away the idea that something like this could be happening because that was easy. I know that sometimes when my friends are fighting, I just sit back and watch. I do not take sides because I do not want to get involved. It seems that if I were to get involved, it would just make things worse but that is not always the case. However, when we are talking about genocide or murder, it is imperative that we take sides. Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, once said, “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Before reading his Nobel Peace Prize Speech, I would have never believed that taking sides was a beneficial thing. In order to take sides, we must be aware of what is going on. We can only rely on the media cycle so much. They discuss a big news story for a while but as soon as something worse happens, they drop it and move on. We need to know what is going on.

Many people say that the world has not learned anything from previous afflictions. While in some ways this many seem true, I disagree. The genocides in Rwanda and Darfur are prime examples. However, the world is still learning. We are going to continue to have failures but because of these hardships, but tomorrow is going to be a better day. We can promise to remember. Disasters leave a lasting memory in our minds to make sure that we learn from our mistakes.