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Posts Tagged ‘Whitwell’

Whitwell, Tennessee.

Not much cultural diversity. 50% free and reduced lunch. Industry supporting then devastating the community, then leaving town. Home of the Tigers… sound familiar, Hudson Falls?

Last fall Hudson Falls kids and I had the pleasure of getting to know Joe Fab, the major moving force behind the film  Paper Clips, when he came to our town to speak.On Tuesday morning this week, a few educators and I  loaded into  cars for a pleasant drive from Nashville to Whitwell, to visit the middle school where it all began, and their Children’s Holocaust Memorial, a cattle car from Germany that was used to carry human beings to the killing centers.

The middle school is in  a new building that also houses a special Holocaust Memorial library, which is thought to be the largest single collection in the state, many volumes donated by survivors and congregations worldwide. Every letter they ever received is archived there, including the negative ones that arrived with the paper clips twisted into swastikas. Imagine. Middle school kids not picking and choosing what to save, but archiving like historians for the future.

Linda Hooper, the former principal, greeted the nine of us, and gave us a private talk about the impact of the project and the unbelievable ripple effect it has had on people’s lives across the world. Sandy Roberts told us how the project unfolded in her after school class, when a child raised his hand to say, “Mrs. Roberts, excuse me, but I don’t know what six million is.” Because they took the time to investigate together, students and parents reflected together in a meaningful way on the impact of learning about the Holocaust on their lives. And that is how this project was born.

Before we move to criticize the project as just another counting activity, the collecting and counting of objects to symbolize human life, come to Whitwell and meet the people. Read the letters from the survivors who send in a paper clip, or dozens, and reach out to these children who have touched them enough to tell their families’ stories.

No one can fathom six million plus. But read the letters to feel for yourself individual stories of the millions who were lost. Come to Whitwell and see for yourself the power of a small community excited about learning, and its impact on the world, because they wanted to care about other human beings.

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