2019 Tolerance Week Essay Contest Winners

High School Winner Isabel Martinez, Bishop Heelan High School 9th Grade
I Am A Witness
“What’s the point of being a hero when everyone thinks you’re a villain?”-Ellen Hopkins
Who am I?
Am I a hero?
A villain?
A victim?
A witness?
I am a witness.
A witness of the world.
A witness of an era.
A witness of change.
I am a witness of veterans
on the side of street corners,
begging for subsistence
from those he once risked his life for.
I am a witness of survivors
of school shootings
becoming victims
to their own minds.
I am a witness of religions
still being persecuted
in social acceptance
and political actions
I am a witness of a wall
dividing people
meant to be together.
Yes, I am a witness
But what have I done to invoke change?
What have you done to invoke change?
What has society done to invoke change?
We are all witnesses
But do we invoke change?
Being a hero or a villain isn’t black o white,
but being a witness is.
To be a witness who does nothing,
allows prejudice and pain,
is worse than the gray
painted between hero and villain.
I will become a witness to invoke change
a witness who tries.
I may not be a hero,
but I am a witness.

Middle School Winner, Ulises Tapia-Sanchez, South Sioux City Middle School, Grade 8

I Am a Witness

What is a witness? A more appropriate question is “who is a witness”? The answer to that is everyone–you, me, even the sun. We are all witnesses of a tragedy whose effects may not last forever, but the memories most definitely will. We owe it to those eleven million who died, the many more whose lives could never be the same, and to future generations to ensure that such an atrocity will never be forgotten and will never occur again.

You are important to mankind. The very fact that you are aware of such a terrible time is crucial to preventing history from repeating itself. The witness is the historian, the student, the average Joe, and you. Everyone is important because everyone is witness.

As witnesses,  it is up to us to speak up about what’s wrong and fight for those who cannot. It is our duty to remember because if we don’t , there won’t  be any proof of this event after the last survivor has passed away. We must remember the past to shape our future because how can there be a future without a past? What kind of person acts in the present without planning for the future? And most importantly, how can the past not be recreated if it has been forgotten?

We learn about the Holocaust in school, but we don’t always stop to think about the true severity of the Holocaust. The sheer amount of deaths that cannot be forgotten, that must be respected, and that must be displayed to the world for the sake of the future of mankind must be respected.

I am a witness. I will do my duty as a witness and remember the Holocaust. I will remember the lives lost, the lives destroyed, the families broken, and the children who had to live through it all and whose minds may never have had the chance to recover. I will remember the tragedy, and in doing so, I will be doing my part in not having to remember another one. I am a witness of the Holocaust. I will do my duty as a witness, and I hope that you will do yours.



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