The 75th anniversary of D-Day brings up an important point: with the survivors of this heroic but tragic history disappearing every day, who will be left to tell their stories? The history books will give basic information, but it’s the personal stories that give life in blood-red color as to what really happened. The stories are what give us pause—to be astonished, horrified, angry, but also to be inspired by strength, persistence, and courage. They show us the best – and worst – of humanity. Stories are more interesting than timelines and strategy and they teach us lessons and an appreciation for what others sacrificed for us. They make an impression and stick in our minds. In history classes, teachers would do well to require students to read memoirs, to drive home the reality and effects of what they are studying.
I hope you are writing the stories of your own family members—or even yourself. This honors those who have lived—or died—through difficult times, or even just through interesting times. These are your people, so if you don’t write who they were and what they lived through, in a couple generations it will be as though they never existed—just a name, perhaps with rumors attached. Worse, as for the Holocaust, once the survivors are gone from this earth, then the deniers can more easily run rampant, trying to change history, losing any lessons learned while desecrating the lives lost. Perhaps you’ve heard that saying that when a person dies, a library is lost. And that a person dies twice: once in physical death, and again when his stories are no longer remembered.