“I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death.” −Anne Frank
Like so many others, I read your diary when I was young. I was with you as you talked about treading lightly so that the workers in the factory below would not hear you. I felt your longing to go outside, to breathe the fresh air and feel the sun on your face, to be free again. I marveled at how upbeat you often seemed in spite of your circumstances, how you still believed that people are good at heart. And I wondered as I read, could I have done the same? What would my diary have looked like if I had been in your shoes?
I visited your house on my birthday. Some might consider that that odd, but thinking of you reminds me that life should be celebrated, for it is fleeting.
I saw the place where a bookcase concealed the entrance to your secret dwelling. I stood where you hid, where you slept and dreamed, where you wrote. I saw the walls that kept you safe but at the same time kept the world out and imprisoned you. I looked at the pictures that you pasted up on them, the movie stars and the clippings of Princess Margaret and young Elizabeth, who would be Queen in just a decade or so. I took all of these in, somewhat surprised to find that, although you clearly were extraordinary, at the same time you were still a normal teenage girl.
I saw photos. You smiled at me from your writing desk and I smiled back. I think you would have liked that. But in the next moment, I choked back tears, thinking what a shame it is that such a lovely, smart, thoughtful young girl was never allowed to finish growing up. I am quite certain that you would have been an even more lovely, smart, thoughtful woman.
I read your names and those of your family members on the pages of the ledger for the camp, and the horror wound its way through my veins and filled my heart. When I thought about how your story is just one of the few that we know well—one tragedy among millions more that will never be told, I could hardly bear the thought. So, instead, I focused on your wish and how it came true. Your life was far too short, but you live on. A girl like you who has touched the hearts of so many can never really die.
Originally published in the Journal of Ordinary Thought, September 2012