During the summer between my junior and senior years of high school I was one of several German language students who traveled across the pond as part of an exchange program.
As part of that, I stayed with a family and experienced a lot of what one would expect to see and do in the European nation.
My trip paled in comparison with what Haylee Sovell did, and, quite honestly, I wish I would have taken my trip a little more seriously than I did.
On a first trip to Germany there are a few things that you really must do, and one of them is a trip to one of the concentration camps.
We went to Dachau.
I made the mistake of telling one of the native Germans I had gotten to know that I was actually looking forward to that part of our trip. He looked at me with disappointment in his eyes, and then told me a trip to a concentration camp was not something anyone should look forward to as a time of enjoyment.
I quickly learned that lesson as we walked through the museum and learned just how terrible life was for those who were sent there. The history books I read did not do justice to the realities of that time.
I remember walking out with my head low, and out of the corner of my eye I remember seeing the I-told-you so look I knew would be coming.
Do not shy away from a visit like that, but go in with your eyes wide open. Also, don’t plan a lot of other things the same day, because you will not remember any of it after seeing the inside of a building where people were gassed and then incinerated.
I thought I had learned my lesson, but it all came back to me Aug. 30 when I made a visit to Milroy.
Late in the day I was scheduled to stop by Jamie and Amy Larsen’s home to talk with them about an event they were holding in memory of their daughter, Brooklyn.
I have known the Larsens for a while, and so, I was foolishly looking forward to sitting down with them and hearing their story – not about their loss but about how much the efforts they have been making to honor her memory have been making a difference.
Let’s just say you can’t have one without the other.
I knew we would talk about Brooklyn, but I did not anticipate how much sitting with them would impact me. The sadness I felt was overwhelming, and when I got back in my car after talking with them for just a few minutes the tears started to come.
I have no idea how this family has been holding it together.
Jamie and Amy are holding on to their faith as a source of strength, and I really admire how well they held it together as we talked around the table.
What really got to me was the reality of their experience.
Nearly two years after their daughter died they have no idea why it happened. There has been no physical explanation given to them as to why their 11-year-old was taken from them.
They are part of what is a growing group of people who have similar stories and whose cause of death is simply “unexplained.”
The group that offers support for the Larsens and others like them, known as SUDC, is funding research, but all of the dollars that are being spent are coming from private donations.
There are no federal dollars being allocated for SUDC, and I find that unacceptable. It is my hope that politicians at the state and federal level do the right thing.