Sunday, October 21, 2012
On Hatteberg's People, World War II veterans' stories are fast disappearing, but in Abilene many of those stories are being saved by teenagers. It's a project that teams high school students to those who experienced that war. The reward is felt in both generations. We begin at the Abilene city library.
For weeks, 82 year-old Christa Jones has been meeting with high school senior Shannon Miller. Originally from Germany, Christa is telling her story of how she escaped Germany and came to America.
"We need to know about the history of the second World War. I can tell them what happened," Jones said. "You know who suffered the most? People like us."
"To hear from the refugees who actually lived back then and went through the worst part of the war - it's very touching and it definitely changed my perspective," Miller said.
In December, Jones' story and many others will be produced in book form, written by the students and saved for posterity.
The project was formed several years ago by Ann Parr. She is a Lindsborg writer who thought it would be wonderful to bring the two generations together so that the young could learn from the old, and more importantly, the personal history of those who experienced World War II would be saved.
"I see this as the last World War II project. The population is so fragile. You think about it, it's been nearly 70 years since Peal Harbor and we've got people in their late 80s and early 90s," Parr said.
Parr first did the project in Lindsborg and it was successful. This time, it is a senior's English Honors Class in Abilene doing writing and interviewing.
"To see them partner with the older people is so moving," Parr said.
Part of the reason for doing it in Abilene is the strong influence of World War II Army General Dwight Eisenhower. Abilene was his home town.
Some who worked with Eisenhower or knew him are sharing their stories. Paul Martin, 87, was a pharmacist mate in the Navy. His first-person account of his life in the war is being written by Abilene High School Senior Macey Dinkel.
"I think I should mention this - I don't feel myself as a hero in a World War. I think the real heroes were the guys who had more firepower than I did and guys that didn't get to come back," Martin said.
Lives were altered by war. Now their stories will live on thanks to generations who are working together, creating a time capsule in book form of those who helped change the world forever.
"I'm proud of those students who are interested in it," Jones said.
While it may be the last writing project for the group, Parr says it's important for families and individuals to keep track of stories in their own families. Take your video camera and interview your grandparents or parents about their lives. When they're gone, the history they lived is gone, too. It's a good reminder for all of us.