Walk In Their Shoes

Let us pray none of us ever have to walk in the shoes of a parent who lost a child to the horrors of a mass shooting by an AR-15 rifle, its devastation so complete that the only way to identify their mutilated offspring is through their footwear.

A familiar pair of green Converse shoes on a little 10-year-old girl’s feet turned out to be the only clear evidence that could identify Maite Rodriguez after the Ross Elementary School shooting because of the sheer violence inflicted by an AR -15.

What a weapon designed for war does to children with small bones and limbs made the process of identifying them agonizing.

At times impossible.

Sometimes shoes are all there is.

Matthew McConaughey Powerful Appeal For Gun Control

 

Yesterday an impassioned Matthew McConaughey a native of  Uvalde, Texas spoke about the victims at an emotional news conference at the White House.

10-year-old Maite Rodriguez, we learned, was a lover of animals and the environment. She dreamed of becoming a marine biologist. She often wore a pair of green high-top Converse sneakers with a heart drawn in marker over her right toes.

As a choked-up McConaughey shared this child’s story, his wife Camila Alves McConaughey held up the green sneakers for all to see.

Shoes say more than words ever can.

Maite will never outgrow those converse sneakers.

Artifacts Are Important Storytellers

Just as the shoes in the Holocaust Museum showed what happened in one of the darkest chapters in human history so the green sneaker is now a symbol of one of our own dark, shameful chapters of American history. One that we are capable of changing. We are bearing witness to our own tragedy,  Senseless mass shootings. L) Uvalde shooting victim Maite Rodriguez’s green Converse high tops R) Children’s shoe from Auschwitz

Seeing that pair of ordinary green Converse high tops, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the discarded shoes displayed at various Holocaust memorials.

Shoes that could speak when their victims can’t.

Not long after the U.S. Holocaust Museum opened in 1994, I traveled with my husband and his small family to Washington DC to see this important museum that memorializes victims and artifacts.  To stand there with them, some of who were Holocaust survivors themselves, and bear witness was powerful.

In a museum filled with artifacts, nothing quite prepared me for the display of discarded shoes.

Piles of discarded shoes Holocaust Memorial

Piles of discarded shoes Holocaust Memorial

On the second floor as we walked through a glass corridor, several panes etched with the names of scores of towns that were wiped out, we entered a darkened room that was filled with shoes.

Remnants of lives spilled one on top of each other.

Old shoes. New shoes. Worn shoes. Some were scuffed from extensive use. Some seemed hardly worn. Black leather shoes. Brown cloth shoes. Men’s shoes. Women’s shoes. Dress shoes, loafers, and high heels all piled in a disordered heap.

Shoes of a child of the Holocaust

Shoes of young lives that never had a chance.

Baby shoes.

Children’s shoes.

They were a visual reminder of lives lived in these shoes, lives lost and the horror they endured.

Hundreds of them. Arranged in a heap ten or twelve inches deep covering the two hundred square foot floor except for a narrow path that you walk through to go to the next room.

We lingered.

These were ordinary shoes belonging to ordinary people who lived ordinary lives. Like any one of us.

The shoe room breaks everyone’s heart, even if it’s just a little bit.

Like the green Converse sneakers

Shoes carry meaning.

They ground us in the world. They transport us. They make the world accessible to walk the ground beneath us and experience the environment.

Shoes give hints to a person’s character and are a deep form of self-expression, of personal style as they were to a little girl in Texas who as an environmentalist chose green, her favorite color. Shoes that will never serve their intended purpose again.

Shoes offer a very powerful metaphor both for how we miss the victims who once filled those shoes and also for how we see ourselves wanting to walk in their place, seeking change, so that others don’t have to walk this painful journey.

 

7,000 pairs of shoes were laid on the Capitol lawn to represent children killed by gun violence since Newtown. March 13, 2018

In 2018 thousands of shoes were placed on the lawn of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. as part of a protest against school shootings. Families of gun victims traveled to Washington to participate. The display of worn shoes, which were intended to draw Congress’ attention to children who have died from gun violence, was inspired in part by memorials to the Holocaust.

But the shootings continued.

Victims of Uvalde shooting

There are children missing from our history that shouldn’t be missing.

Congress has lost its moral footing. Children slaughtered to the point of non-recognition by a weapon designed for war.  It is time we put our foot down and demand action from our elected leaders.

Tragically, 10-year-old Maite Rodriguez will never outgrow her green High Tops. I pray that we outgrow our hesitation to create sensible gun laws.

 

Copyright (©) 2022 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 comments

  1. I have a 7 year old daughter.
    This breaks my heart.
    I lived in Europe for a number of years,I went to Auschwitz.
    The shoe room undid me.
    I live in Nz,we ratified gun control.
    I love your writing.
    My adopted Grandmother would be so fucking angry(sorry,not sorry).

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is nothing if not terribly heartbreaking. It is all so maddening, and you ( and your grandmother) have every right to feel mad. I sure do.

      Like

      • TurtleWorks

        She passed away,10 years ago, and she was a family friend, but when I first arrived in NZ, she kinda became my Babička. Yeah, she would be organizing a protest.
        Did I say I love your writing? yeah, I do!!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much and I am delighted you enjoy my writing and that it resonates with you! It means a lot.

    Like

  3. TurtleWorks

    How can I share this article of immense awesomeness?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. jmartin18rdb

    You are so good at connecting dots, Sally. Sad how bloodstained these dots both are. If only Senate Republicans could connect the dots. Hard to do when you’ve sold your soul to the NRA. Likely, the gun lobby money will never be spent. It will never satisfying their greed as it adds to their vast estates. A sad gift to pass along to their progeny.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. TurtleWorks

    On a lighter note, how can I find matzoh balls for soup here in New Zealand…Bread crumbs do not work……
    I’m a gentile…yeesh!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, I’m delighted you found a deli. Hope you enjoy the treat! And thank you for buying my book. As an interesting aside, that book was created long before google and the internet allowed us access to a boatload of images. All the objects in the book were either part of my collection or required old-fashioned research.

    Like

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