When I woke up Sunday morning, I did not want to go into work.
The explanation includes a limo, champagne, roller skates, and the night before, but that’s another story. And if it wasn’t a Sunday shift—notoriously difficult to fill on 30 minutes’ notice—I might have called in. The day’s main assignment:
Cover the Jewish Heritage Festival in Daytona Beach and write a 500-word story.
A photographer was already assigned. The festival ran from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The story was due sometime after 6 p.m. In other words, it was as complicated as I made it.
I arrived with a game plan: Find and interview the organizer. Grab some literature. Make a lap or two. Talk to festival-goers and vendors. Head back to the newsroom. Write. File. Edit. Home.
On the second lap, I met Sara Fox.
Sara is a shy artist whose parents were both Holocaust survivors, but she didn’t know the extent of their torture and loss until she was in her 40s when her mother finally did a recorded interview retelling her devastating experiences. Sara is 60 now with wispy blonde hair and sad, hopeful eyes; eyes of a sensitive painter who must feel to create.
It took her three years to paint six panels inspired by her mother’s and father’s stories. And I use the word ‘inspired’ loosely. It was more of a journey of shared pain for the Israel-born artist. She could barely talk about it without crying.
“Watch the video,” she said. And so I did.
Her mother’s tale of losing her own parents and siblings in the Holocaust is wrenching. Sara finished painting her family’s story in 1995. The large acrylic piece is full of haunting images of her beaten grandfather, Nazi soldiers, bodies, and death. It also shows Sara and her siblings, all of whom are successful because of the quiet sacrifices of her parents.
When the video was done, there were three women seated around me and festival volunteers breaking down exhibits. People had come and gone. Some had stayed for a while and left; the video is so painful to watch, not even Sara stuck around.
But when it was done, I turned and she was there. She looked at the expression on my face and said, “Now you understand.” And that’s when I cried.
“Hate is wrong,” she said through our tears. “That’s a lesson we learned. You are a writer and you are a beautiful person. Your words will change the world.”
I left the festival crying. It was about so much more than food and music and knick knacks, it was about a spirited culture that had survived Hell and learned to live and laugh again. And Sara was the heart of my story.
This is why I love my job. Because I never know whom I will meet and I meet the most amazing people who change my life in one unexpected encounter. And I get to share their untold stories with the world.
I’m glad I had to work on Sunday…
Kari Cobham is a staff writer at The Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Read Kari's Article on Daytona Beach Jewish Heritage Festival.
Visit her blog: A Mi Ver. | Connect with her on Twitter: @KariWrites