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Using Oral History as a Vehicle for Studying

Ourselves and Contemporary History

By the Grade 8 Ditmas IS 62- Principal’s Class 850 Barry Kevorkian,

The Dark Side of the
Using Oral History as a Vehicle for Studying
Ourselves and Contemporary History

Ditmas IS 62- Principal’s Class 850

Barry Kevorkian, Principal

We, the Students- Writing Institute Press

Team Work
Michael Downes, Law Studies Instructor
Dr. Rose Reissman, Literacy Consultant
David Liotta, Videographer
Jesus O. Beristain, Book Designer
Joey Leone, Manuscript Preparation

Student Editorial Leadership Team

Jankheri Duke
Morsheda Kabir

Art Coordinator: William Solomon

850 Artists: Amy Con, Bibi Morium, Giorgi Gogilashvili, Jankheri Duke,
Joshua Chery, Rexford Goldblum, Robine Jean Pierre 

Art Support
Julna Dorismond 805
Namra Khan 805
Sabrina Pierre 805
Yesinia Mendoza 805

We, The Students Joshua Chery
Amy Con Morsheda Kabir
Anisur Rahman Mudassar Hussain
April Snape Osamah Bhatti
Bibi Morium Rehma Saleem
Briana Creese Rexford Goldbaum
Bryan Sanchez Robine Jean Pierre
Cayla Turner Rosario Mendoza
Damali McDonald Sabrina Armoogan
Desean Phillip Sason Mardukhayev
Destiny Perez Shammy Juerakhan
Edina Abuqattam Tseghe Simpson
Gerald Simon Usman Ali
Giorgi Gogilashvili Vanessa Martinez
Jannkheri Duke William Solomon
Joseph Chaudhary Zaira Khan
Table of Contents

Foreword Dr. Steve Zeitlin, Founder CityLore

Chapter 1 We, the Middle School Students- Oral Historians

Chapter 2 Studs Terkel , Writings Inspired by The Good War-Oral

history of World War II

Chapter 3 The Living Proof -The Holocaust Happened- Rae

Kaner, Yehudah Lindenblatt, John Ranz and Hannah
Rigler- Oral histories - Conversations with Survivors

Chapter 4 Words of War- War of Words- Interview with Valerie


Chapter 5 Herman Baron III- Poetry as Portal for Oral History

Chapter 6 Richard Francis Downes-Up Close and Personal- Mr.

Michael Downes’s Oral History Tribute to his dad

Afterword Bibi Morium- 850 Student- Founding Team Member

Living Proof- Ditmas Oral History Center


Ever since I was in high school, I have loved listening to the stories of family and
friends, and those around me. That inspired me to embark on a lifelong mission
to collect oral histories, create books, exhibits, films and public programs
highlighting the histories and artistry of everyday people.
The contributors to this work, middle school students at IS 62 Ditmas, are
already film makers, authors and oral historians. They have begun to explore
Studs Terkel, record their own oral histories and develop multimedia
I am in awe of some of the poetry, narratives and engagement with oral history
this work demonstrates.
I welcome you as the next generation of listeners and writers.

Steve Zeitlin
Founding Director
City Lore
Illustration made by William Solomon 850
1. We, the Middle School Student Oral Historians-


As per our training by Dr. Reissman, we conducted interviews and extracted

from them key quotes.

A Lifetime of Loss

I interviewed my mom.
Bangladesh was fighting for its independence from Pakistan, when she was a
girl. My mom lost one family member in the war. She said that the soldiers
would take little babies to stomp them to death. One of her relatives died while
having tea at a diner. Soldiers were always patrolling the streets. There was
always the possibility of death.

They lined up all the men. Using machine guns, they killed all 25 men, in four
seconds. The consequences of those four seconds of shooting were a lifetime of
loss. Death was always looming in the air. When we won, I could walk in the
streets without fear.

Anisur Rahman 850

The Opportunity to Work

Q. Your opinion about war?

A. Wars should have reasons behind the true meaning of violence.

Q. Have you ever witnessed or experienced a war?

A. Yes, I have. I was a young, handsome soldier back in the day around the

Q. Did the war experience affect you?

A. Yes, I did experience a great affect. I guess if I never experienced war, I
wouldn’t be the person I am today. When you go through a war, it changes your
life physically and emotionally. It turns you into a different person in a positive
or negative way.

From my perspective as a teen oral historian:

My grandfather became the father of five beautiful children. The five children
had their children. Our grandfather became the patriarch of our family.
Even though is a translation of what he said to me, I was able to put the pieces
together and understand what he meant. He told me that he had made mistakes.
Then he said that if one works hard, everything one wishes, can be achieved. For
my grandfather, the opportunity to work, was the greatest gift one could get.

Morsheda Kabir 850

Illustration made by William Solomon 850. This is a graphic comment on Bob Porcols oral history of Folk
City. This was a restaurant.
Malik’s Vietnam

My cousin Malik was in the Vietnam War: “I saw one of the soldiers on the
ground and he looked like a slice of pizza.”

He told my mom that everyday he would have a flashback of the blood, the gun
shots and everything that happened that day. He said it was very depressing
after the war: “Every night I go to sleep, I would wake up scared.”

Every time you close your eyes what do you see/remember about the war?
Malik: “When I close my eyes, all I see are my soldiers dead on the ground and
blood everywhere. I can hear gunshots going everywhere. I can hear my partner
screaming my name calling for help. It was terrifying.”

How has this war left you?

Malik: “Since I was in that war, I worry that this is going to happen again to me,
I still feel I’m in the war, but I will never forget what I had to go through during
the Vietnam War. For me, the war never ended.”

Amy Con 850

Interview with my Dad

I interviewed my dad, asked him whether he had fought in a war. He said no, I
had been in a war, he wouldn’t tell anyone anything about it. He said that war is
a bad thing, because people are fighting for no reason. He also said that war is
destroying the world little by little. It is affecting the United States government
more than anything. War is deadly. We can’t stop war, once it starts.

Quote 1 -War includes people fighting for no reason.

Quote 2 -War is destroying the world little by little.
Quote 3 War can not be stopped when it starts.

Usman Ali 850

Interviewing David Turner-my father

David Turner
I was a marine based in Okinawa, Japan. My base was in North Carolina at
Camp Lejune. I almost had to go to Iran in 1979 though. I was getting ready to
go because that was when Iran was threatening the United States. Besides that, I
loved playing war games with different N.A.T.O. countries such as Germany,
Denmark, United Kingdom and Sweden.

Cayla Turner 850

My Father’s Take on War

What is your take on war

I really don’t believe in war even if I was in the war. War guarantees that blood
will be shed and lives will be taken.

Did you ever fight in a war?

Yes. I will never talk about the experience.

What would were the effects of experience?

Yes. I got shot in my knee and chest. War can go both ways. War is deadly. War
can destroy peoples lives

Sean Phillip 850

Interviewing my father

I interviewed my parents about whether their lives have been affected by war.
My dad said that my great-great-great grandfather fought in the Mexican Ameri-
can war. He survived. He said that my great grandfather got many medals, even
though their country was devastated by the war. He said “He was proud to be a
Mexican. Your grandpa was a brave, brave person.”
I felt proud of my grandfather as well.

My fathers key quotes:

“Living life is the best revenge.”

“War goes both ways.”
“Is war a sin or is war a good deed?”

Gerald Simon 850

2. Learning from the Master Oral Historian –Studs
Terkel-Our imaginative responses to study of his oral
histories in The Good War, Studs Terkel’s Pulitzer
Prize Award Winning History of World War II

Studs Terkel 1912—2008 Book cover of “The Good War: An Oral

History of World War II by Studs Terkel

The Good War- Inspired narratives- Fictions or perhaps our uncovering of

the truth, We read two perspectives on the death of Kevin- one by Joe, his
pal who survived D Day and one by his widow who married the surviving
soldier, Joe. Ironically, Rosemary, the widow met her second husband Joe
Hanley, when he visited her to share her first husband Kevin’s last moments
before Kevin died on the battlefield.

Kevin’s Last Thoughts- Interior Monologue

Here we are, going into a battle. I didn’t really like the idea of war. I believe
thing can be solved without violence, but maybe not. This was going to be a big
battle. I knew it was. I’m hoping I’ll make it out alive; I have a wife and kid to
think about. I have to make it out alive. The orders were given. We are running
into the battlefield. I’m hearing hundreds of gunshots and bombs go off her and
there. I hear someone shout my name…
I think. I’m hearing them shout: “Kevin! Kevin!” But before I know who it is,
something lands next to me-a bomb. I try to run as fast as I could, but it’s too
late The bomb explodes, at least half of my body hurt, I can see a puddle of
blood beginning to surround me as I lie on the ground. I hear the shouts again
“Kevin! Kevin!” It’s a good friend of mine. He rushes to me and picks me up. I’m
not going to make it, I’m loosing too much blood. I look up at my friend. “Tell
my wife and kid I love them” is all I say.

Vanessa Martinez 850

Illustration made by William Solomon 850

One of the recorded oral histories, Studs Terkel took for use in the Good War
was that of a Japanese American who because of Pearl Harbor wound up in a
few internment camps. As part of his careful recording of this history, Studs
Terkel learned about the Japanese cultural value of Gaman- perseverance-


Take what’s coming,

Don’t react.
My mother says that
As if it’s a fact
She says because we’re Japanese
This rule can get us through
Life with ease,
But I don’t think
It’s an easy task,
Why not fight back?
I curiously ask.
She sits me down
And says to me -
Without your impulse, you will see
That soon enough
Your issues, confusion
In no time,
Will find their solution.
I try my best
To see what she means,
Now I get it.
It’s easy it seems.
She learned it from her
Parents back in Japan.
It’s what we like to call -

Robine Jean Pierre 850

Gaman Chapter 2

Gaman means to persevere.

Take what’s coming, don’t react.
No matter how severe.
Now that was a fact.
Pushed into a truck
Forced to pack up.
I guess it was my luck.
But of course, no one gave it a *******.
I mean, sleep in a barrack.
Without any parents.
All is left is havoc .
Life was just tragic.
Would I live for another day?
This was USA.
I thought all fears were to go away
And live happily every day.
To be or not to be,
The only thing I wanted now
Was to be free
Only question was how to
Lose people, lose love
Lose faith in this land
Keep the for the One up above-
But still, I stand.
Keep my head held high-
Take what’s coming-
Whether I live or die.
I’ll keep hope strumming.

Bibi Morium 850

The Dark Edge of the Grand Old Flag

Our innocence is lost
Our love fades away
Mother is slowly passing,
Dad’s shadows face the concrete walls.
Bathrooms, dirty and embarrassing.
Can’t believe what I’m seeing,
Being strong for the little sis.
Even at times I can’t resist.
Everything’s gone,
Dad came here for a better life
We need to “gaman”
Why do I fight?
We need to fight
If we don’t I know what it’s like…
It’s all gone… Trying to prove yourself.

Morsheda Kabir 850 It gets in your mind.

All the time,
It won’t get out!
We fight and fight,
What do you
Get out of it?
In the end,
I understand trying
To be American.
I was born in another country.
Came here when I was two months old.
Been raised here, worked hard.
Don’t you think I’m American?
Why do I have to fight?

Morsheda Kabir 850

Internment Camp

It was Dec 7, 1941. I came to Los Angeles in 1904. I had a mother, a father and a

One day I lost my father The next day my mother was gone My father was in
Montana’s Prison Zoo. My mother had left earth My sister was 15 years old. I
was 12 years old months later. My father came in an army truck . We were
finally together. I was drafted into the army. While my father and sister are in a
Internment camp They were hoping the war would end. Later on, I came back to

I was happy to be back. We were going to Los Angeles to be an American Family

or as American Family as we could be, post internment camp.

Amy Con 850

Illustration made by Joshua Cherry 850

Almost a year
It was almost a year. He came to us. We went to him. My sister and I were
relieved. Father was safe. He returned to us. It took almost a year. But finally
we’re together.
Father’s Perspective of his Arrest after Pearl Harbor Attack
What did I do?
I thought to myself as I was led from the beautiful wedding, by the
expressionless officers. I was more lost than ever. I didn’t even know where I
was, along with a few others. A prison, but why?
As I walked through the doors after changing into their clothes and being
shackled, I saw the shame on my wife’s face. It tore my heart in two to know I
had humiliated her so deeply
Tseghe Simpson 850

Illustration made by William Solomon 850

Illustration made by Robine Jean Pierre 850

Triangle- Death did not part them

Rosemary’s Perspective

Feeling so alone

When I heard the news,

My husband is dead.
Who do I have to love?
To enjoy my life with . . .
Kevin, the guy I had a daughter with, is dead
I cried so much.
But Joe Hanley was there for me,
I needed someone.
I needed him.
I loved him.
He helped me get through this
I love Joe.
I loved Kevin.

Amy Con 850

Kevin’s point of view

Fighting was easy. But I was afraid everything that I would die. Never see my
wife and child again. I hoped that at least someone I knew and trusted would
take care of them. I didn’t think I would die here now. However, I was wrong,

I died in my friend’s arms. He is a nice man. I’m sure he’ll write my wife.
Hopefully, he’ll at least help and provide for her. What I never thought was that
he’d marry her. She was my wife! I guess you can’t stay lonely for long. At least
now, she’s happy, they all are.

Edina AbuQattam 850


Joe’s Perspective

How she must have felt, to find out he’s dead.

All those memories they cherished.
All those things left unsaid.
In one moment gone,
Leaving without a warning,
Left her with nothing,
Except sorrow and mourning.
I tried to forget, this dear friend of mine.
But he wouldn’t go away
So I turned to alcohol and wine,
But something weird happened . . .
What it was, I wasn’t sure
Then slowly I realized
I was in love with her
Rehma Saleem 850
Illustration made by Rosario Mendoza 850

Triangle- Death Did not Part Them

Hey, your husband died a while ago

Got shot down and I made it a joke
Oh, I just noticed you’re single
Want to get married? I’ll buy you some Pringles!
Don’t worry, Kevin’s dead.
He can’t do anything to you
“Tell my wife, I love her” he said nicely
I’m nice enough to do him the favor, so don’t be feisty
So while I slide this ring down your finger
All you need to say is “yes” to forget about everything
Make sure you don’t say bad things like
“I did the wrong thing by marrying you”
Just as I did to Kevin, I’ll make a joke out of you too!
Well it’s easy to forget about people
I do it all the time.
Now it’s your turn to forget.
As for me, I really need to end this rhyme.

Bryan Sanchez 850

Illustration made by Robine Jean Pierre 850
Joe’s perspective of the triangle

I never knew . . .

I never knew, I was going to be this person.

Thought I knew everything, when I knew nothing.
Thought I was just some cartoonist, enjoying life.
When the country needed me the most in World War II,
I stood up and joined the army.
I gained nothing, what people didn’t expect.
I walked away with pain, that burned my heart,
I walked away with my friend dead in my arms.
I walked away with his wife’s love,
Four years after his death.
I did not come back as the same person;
I will never be the person.
Rest in peace my dear friend, and rest in peace to the old me.


Joe Hanley

If Kevin could see this from heaven . . .

I can just imagine it now, Kevin looking down from heaven
Viewing a man who, was his friend, live his life.
Seeing him getting married to the lady who once was his wife.
Then hearing his son call Joe “daddy.”
Witnessing Joe have kids with his wife.
Perhaps initially, Kevin would be extremely enraged.
But after hearing Joe’s interview, he would feel happy, to see that his
“used to be “wife is well protected.

Shammy Jerakhan 850


The steam of the teapot blew through the pot.

I wonder how Joe is doing hopefully well.
How ironic this is, my Love talking about my Love.
I remember the first few weeks, it was
Pleasant to have an acquaintance after the news.
He was a thin cover over the gaping hole in my heart.


Kevin’s Perspective

Duck and Cover

This can’t be happening . . .
My consciousness slipping from me . . .
Like my Blood,
Hot and rich and red I felt it
Then he appeared
At once I knew all would be alright
My death would be a sacrifice
Before I die, my love goes to my wife and child
And… my best friend.

Tseghe Simpson 850

Reflections on the Triangle – Rosemary, Joe and Kevin-Forever

Joe is a man who at the age of twenty was care free and had no strings attached
to his life as a single man. He joined the army and was a master when it came to
fire arms. His favorite was the machine gun. Although his gunman status was
high, he never fought in hand to hand combat.

In the waning days of the war, he and his friend Kevin were still on duty. Now
they had to fight hand to hand. It was raining bullets. At one point, Joe and
Kevin went into different directions. Then Kevin was shot.

This was no joke. Kevin was dead. Kevin was very much missed by his wife,
Rosemary. When Joe came back from the war, he started to meet with Kevin’s
wife to help her move on with her life.

Ironically, they had chemistry and got married. Joe became a heavy drinker.
Things didn’t go well for him. Joe wanted to just be a quiet cartoonist, but
instead wound up earning a living as bartender and a bookie. However, through
the help of Rosemary he got better. Although he has a great family and life, he
can’t help but think, why me and not Kevin. I was just a nobody. I had no
responsibilities. Nobody would’ve ever missed me.

I wonder if his wife had similar mixed emotions about Kevin’s death and Joe’s
survival. I also wonder why she chose him.

William Solomon 850

Illustration made by Rexford Goldbaum 850
Love Triangle

Rosemary was probably thinking about Kevin, While she was making coffee. She
was probably thinking about the moment when she found out he’s dead. Studs
Terkel probably deliberately didn’t want Rosemary and Joe to be interviewed
together because he thought that they probably wouldn’t be comfortable talking
about the war and Kevin together. Some things that they wanted to say, couldn’t
be said, because they wouldn’t want to talk about it to each other.

Rosemary was only 22 years old when she married Kevin (he died in 1944, met
him in 1942), Joe came back in 1946 to see Rosemary’s daughter (she married
him in 1949). For Rosemary who had had 3 other children with Joe, it seemed
like it was a continuation of her life

There’s a sadness in my life, losing my first husband. But then comes meeting
Joe and marrying him. We had three other children It seemed like it was a
continuation of my life.

Reader Response to Oral History-Rosemary’s Life Lesson for Us

What I think Rosemary is trying to tell us is that life never ends. When you lose
someone, you lose a piece of your heart. Especially when that person was a very
loved one. Sure, they did take a piece of her heart and life away. That part was
replaced by worry and woe. But she still had a heart, and she still had a life. All
you need now is a gentle push to move on. When that special someone passes
away, a flicker of happiness, hope and faith remains. As much as you loved your
dear departed, that person would never want to see you in pain. All you need to
do is spot that flicker of light in the dark. Once the survivor can spot that flicker
of happiness, hope and faith, it’s okay to keep on walking. People can pass away,
things might go wrong, and nothing’s the same. Yet for survivors like Rosemary
and all of us, life goes on.

Bibi Morium 850

A continuation of life

In-laws encouraged Rosemary to get out and have fun Dec 15 – every time
Kevin’s death anniversary occurred. Once married to Joe. The surviving pal of
Kevin, Rosemary secretly felt, I did not dodo the right thing by marrying him.
Maybe I bring the war to him. Maybe if Joe had married someone else, it might
have left him. How could we have 3 great kids and yet still feel this ongoing
pain? Life moves on.

Rehma Saleem 850


Rosemary was probably thinking about what Joe was saying to the interviewer.
Rosemary was also wondering why they were interviewing Joe and her
separately. She was probably sad and thinking about her first husband Kevin.
She was probably thinking about the good times she was with Kevin. If Kevin
were still alive, he would probably be happy for them. He would be happy that
Rosemary remain frozen by his death. She moved on to be happy. He would
probably be happy that Rosemary married Joe because he probably thought Joe
was a nice person. He would be happy for his daughter to have a father to help
the family.

Amy Con 850

Love Can Not Be Controlled

Rosemary was probably feeling a little uncomfortable. When Studs and Joe
were talking about Kevin. As she brewed coffee in the kitchen, memories of
past happy times with Kevin flooded her heart. In spite of these memories of
Joe, she even thought how she was blessed to have Joe, Why did she fall in love
with Joe? Love is not something that can be controlled.

Morsheda Kabir 850

Pondering Kevin’s loss- that of a father and husband


Why did it happen to him?

Why did it end up like this?
Why did it happen to a guy with a family?
Do bad things always happen to good people
Can someone answer these questions???

Amy Con 850

Joe’s Perspective

Why did it happen to him?

He has someone to live for.
He had a child and a wife.
All I had were the hairs on my back,
He didn’t deserve to die.
Why didn’t they take me?
Someone loved him.
Nobody loved me.

Amy Con 850


If Kevin were alive,

I don’t think he would despise
Joe for picking up his life,
And marrying his wife.
If Kevin were there,
Joe’s life would not compare,
To the life he has today,
In any single way.
But Kevin isn’t around.
Though this might be profound
That Rosemary is with Joe.
Their hearts are filled with woe.
Kevin gave his life,
No returning to his wife
Even though Joe filled his spot,
The memory of Kevin was not forgot

Cayla Turner 850

Illustration made by William Solomon 850

3. Living Proof –The Holocaust Happened- Our own
interviews with Holocaust survivors- Yehudah
Lindenblatt, Rae Kaner, John Ranz, and Hannah
Sara Rigler

From the interview with Yehudah Lindenblatt a survivor of the Budapest Ghetto

Look Up to the Sky

I look up to the sky.

I wonder why
Is this happening to me?
If I were to shed a tear,
would you hear
my crying soul?
I tell a story untold.
Why do you hurt us?
We were chosen for greatness,
yet we were hurt for
no reason.
I ask why
even though it’s
a question only
Yehudah Lindenblatt as a child.
few can answer
and none can say-
I look to the sky
for my unanswered
prayer .

Bethany Beckles-. Class 805

(who was part of the Living Proof- award winning Video/Writing team)
Yehudah Lindenblatt

Unheard Shades-Ghosts of those exterminated

Eyes closed.
Pain felt.
No words.
The feelings of unspoken people.
Tears shed.
Sorrow filled hearts.
Lives gone.
The unspoken shades of people who were.
Close your eyes and see-
What they saw.
Had we lived one more day,
Our unspoken words
would have been heard.
Until that day
a story untold from words not said

Bethany Beckles 850

One for all
All for one

Inspired by Joseph Shultz video screened in Mr. Downes Class

To see them held,

Treated like trash,
I couldn’t just stand there.
I acted fast.
Thrown to the gas chambers,
Put to death,
I could gag-
How they were kept.
When it came to kill them,
I couldn’t witness their misery.
I placed down my gun.
I couldn’t bear it anymore.
Tore off my name badge.
Tore off those gleaming tags.
They rewarded slaughterers.
Persons who acted as beasts.
I cared no longer for my life.
Did not have the urge to run.
I stood there with them hand in hand.
One for all, and all for one

Bibi Morium 850

Rae Kaner— The Living Proof Founders—Mr. Downes and Dr. Rose Reissman

John Ranz sharing his story with the Ditmas students.

Amanda, Sowaibah, and Bibi

Waiting for liberation.

Curled up in a corner.
Screams heard as others die,
Shuddering in fear,
No hope for life, no energy to try
I lie there waiting.
Waiting for all of it.
To be blown away.
Like when your hair will blow.
On an ordinary summer day,
The lights of those summer days,
I would see no more.
Doors shut on me.
As if not knowing how they tore,
I cried there, waiting.
Whips were uncurled.
Guns cocked ready to shoot.
We sat unmoving.
Passing sleepless nights.
I cared no longer for life.
No urge to run.
I watched and waited.
Waiting to be able-
To break free.
Past all boundaries,
Able to be just me.
Rip that yellow star off.
Rip away the pain.
Run through the land.
Be like all the same.
I lived and waited.
Hope left me.
Patience too.
Yet here am I to tell the story.
I came through.

Bibi Morium 850

Illustration made by Giorgi Gogilashvili 850

We first read Hannah Sara Rigler’s Testimony for Yad Va Shem and also a page
of one of the British soldiers’ diaries about her rescue at the end of World War
II. Hannah actually shared her memories with us in person at our school, plus
reacted to our art and poetry. She was the fourth Holocaust survivor we
interviewed this year.

Sarah Hannah Rigler speaking to our oral historians.

Sarah Hannah Rigler

“The Testimony”

My mother left behind-

Tears in my eyes.
Hurt me so deep .
All I had left was my pride.
The tears, I hide, the pain hidden deep inside
Not afraid to cry, my insides die
My father is gone. Mother is going soon.
My sky is not blue, it is very dark
I need the angels to protect me from the danger that larks
My life at stake, with each breathe I take
I do not care, I’ve seen it all, “Who should I fear?”
All these days, feels like years
I wish death; can relieve my tears.
The pain I have felt for days, which left like thousands
Of heart drenching years

Tseghe Simpson 850

My daughters’, my loves, they have to live. I knew they had to leave me. It tore
through my heart to send them off but it had to be done. This was the only way
to ensure their safety, to keep them alive. Locking down now, I’m glad I stayed
back. Even though my Hannah was here with me instead of with her sister.
Sarah made it. My brave little girl survived the turmoil and carnage of war.
When the three soldiers found Sarah I was scared. But then they fed her and
helped her back to health it was a miracle. My sacrifice did aid in her survival
and this made me ecstatic. I wanted to tell her how proud she made me but alas
I couldn’t, I knew she would feel my pride and love.
Tseghe Simpson 850

It isn’t fair, is it?

Well, that’s life or as they say.
Once can go, one can stay
There is no choice!

If even there war, you wouldn’t be the voice

It’s life, this life a TV
And somebody, put you on mute
Plus your channel had the last amount of views

Can anybody help me?

That’s what you say, but who cares?
You feel like nothing now, huh?
What about you and how you treated others?

You just want to die

But look- you are not the only one in this world.
There will always be many others
Like that little girl Sara Rigler

There will never be a second chance

You’re not cable, you can’t rewind
What’s done is done
But can you change?

Amy Con 850

One British Prisoner of War
Named Stan, he helped me, he fed me

I’m still alive, but I’m lonely, I lost my

Father and I’m pretty sure my mother and
Sister are gone too

I’m only 15 years old

And I feel so dirty
I’m so lost and I don’t know what to do

Day after day, soldiers kept helping me

They would feel me like never before
Later on, I’m still alive I don’t want to live
I want to go to heaven with my family

So we can be together again forever.

Cayla Turner 850

Illustration made by Robine Jean Pierre 850

Running and Running, to just stay alive,
For if I stop, I will loose my life,
Like my mother and sister, O, God
Do I miss her, I think I’ll take her name
As my own.
Wait, I hear something I think
Someone’s coming. It’s only a
British Prisoner of war. My appetite’s gone, like my sister
And mom. Now I wish death would knock on my door.
Bryan Sanchez 850

Honorable Judge William Rigler, Dr. Rose Reissman, and Hanna Rigler.
4. War of the Worlds- To Soldier Forward or Not-
Reflections on an oral history Study with Valerie

Illustration made by Amy Con 850


In time,
You’ll see this crime.
It’s in yourself.
And it’s by you, yourself.
You want proof,
That you’re no goof-
But inside you see,
You’ll never ever flee.
Freedom is the cause.
But in no way, can you pause.
You want to save the black
And then you look back.
You laugh and crack up,
Your sad friend says what up
You say remember the crack
And he got to go wack.
You get upset and kill the man.
Then you search his bag.
And find your wife’s pic.
Then you look at your kill.
You look at your wife.
And see there is no life.
So you shoot yourself.
You did it – to yourself.

Mudasar Hussain 850

Valerie Murdock and 670

I’m not afraid to say.

I got a 9mm pocket and I got an AK.

There’s nothing you can say.
That’ll stop me from shooting this bullet your way.
You’ll never see the light of day.
I put you in a state of eternal darkness.
While bugs chew on your carcass.
After a while, killing is no longer sinning.
The sound of gunshot doesn’t have your ears ringing.
Killing becomes an addiction.
You begin to have contradiction.
From wrong and right.
You don’t have a problem, if the person in front of you, never sees light.
When a fellow soldier dies, you don’t get right.
You use it as an excuse to fulfill your indulgence.
For blood you thirst.
The 100th kill is as good as the first.

Anisar Rahnam 850

Reflections after an oral history session with Valerie Murdock,

former JAG during the Iraq War

We were asked to consider if any of us would want to join the army.

Do I?

The army, we see this as our taking a part of our country’s need, we may think
it’s the greatest thing to accomplish by helping people in need.

One of the greatest feelings in the world is feeling that you helped someone.
You also get rewards and benefits and money. But is it worth it?

You may die. You can never see your family again. You can’t say what you want.
I don’t. I would be good for the army for only one reason, in my life.
I always thought there was nothing wrong for me for asking why.
Why can’t I do it my way? I’m sorry if I don’t want to be part of this, but this is me.
My personality involves doing things my way.

Marsheda Kabir 850

Do or die
We had to run like rabbits
I was a rebel, I always marched to another drum
Sabrina Irmoogan 850

You’re in the army now?

I wouldn’t join the army because there is no guarantee that you’ll make it back
from the war. You also have to act like a mindless zombie in the army, and say
“Yes” to every order you get.
I would accomplish nothing if I died during my army service.
Cayla Turner 850


I see the light.

I can see it.
But only if I could move.
Only if I could move.
Why am I here
Oh, yeah, 8#@!?
I got drafted in again
First, the Vietnamese war
Now this?
On the first day,
New solders are excited
Looking at their guns.
Wanting to shoot-
But not me, not me.
I know how this feels.
There nothing government can do.
All I ever wish is to live.
Pow. . .
I got shot in the stomach,
And I can’t move.
Knowing that I will die
I wish my family will go on (without me)
I never wanted this
Why did God choose me?
Why can’t we keep peace?
Why me? Why, oh why?

Muddasar Hussain 850

Valerie Murdock in the center. Former Iraq soldier and Jag.

Love and war

Destruction, pandemonium
Is that what it comes to?
Dangerous, crucial
Only with love will I get through.
When you lose a loved one,
They rip a piece of your heart,
Taking it away from you.
Making everything fall apart,
Especially when you’ve just come back,
From a brutal and deadly war.
Things just don’t stay the same.
There isn’t love anymore.
But when you find her,
The special someone.
The one that makes you happy.
Makes your heart run.
But when that someone
Was unfortunately taken
By a deceased loved one-
Only then did my life awaken.
Pain looks through me.
Anguished blood pumps through me.
What to do? I finally break free
If love was what was needed-
What would bring happiness to his life
Why drink anymore?
I would do what was right.
I was someone different.
To be or not to be.
I was trapped before.
And than broke free of the old me.

Bibi Morium 850

Peace-Rap on

See I know I’m a player

But this just isn’t a game
But men still die all the time
Ain’t it a shame?
Always dying for the wrong cause
Just to prove you got power.
So, let’s stop!
And look back
You’ll notice, our history is whack
Only murder and war
Yet still, we want more!
What is it?
Without war, will people think this nation’s a bore?
Is killing fun?
Because, I’d rather run.
I might seem soft.
Because I don’t want to fight.
But it’s only, because I know
It just isn’t right.
So let’s make peace.
No war.
No more.
Now, I know this was deep.
But I could write rhymes like this in my sleep.

Joseph Chandhary 850

The Army Way

I guess that if I did join the army, my future would depend on the circum-
stances. I would never join the army, because I wouldn’t be able to watch bodies
being blown up right before me. Even if I were promised that college would be
paid for me, there’s always the chance that I would not make it. Then, college
would mean nothing to me. However, if I were required to join the army, I think
I am the type of person who can take orders without questioning authority. The
problem is that I’d keep all of my belligerence. deep inside. Though I’d keep my
comments to myself, being in this situation would do damage to my mental
health. The stress would kill me. I’d be driven to be an emotional wreck. No
doubt, the “Army Way” wouldn’t be right for me.

Robine Jean Pierre 850

This thing called “War”

This thing called war.

It has changed lives for many people.
It changed the way they see things.
The way they see life.
This thing called war.
Can really hurt a person.
From inside to outside
Why is that???
Why does this thing make
Us feel this way?

Amy Con 850


What has war offered me, but love and pain

What was the gain, for that should I be ashamed?
War took my love. Pain was the gain.
Then the Lord above sent me another,
He was like a brother, to my love that was lost, long gone.
“See you soon,” were the parting words from my heart.
Who knew this war would split us apart?
Who knew what was in store, when your best friend came knocking on my door
Intruding into my, my home, my space, my heart, our place.
Everything was at a fast pace.
In a race, I finish last, continuously having flashbacks of my past.
I see your face, the guilt I can take.
War has sent me pain, the gain was love.
No war, no bombs, just peace.
It’ll be the death of me.
Can’t you see?
Guilty once, guilty twice, I can’t take it.
This is not nice, my love.
I’ll be there very far, but in your heart I am always near, my dear.

April Snape 850

War is a game

It gets played different ways

It can last years
Or just a couple of days.
It’s considered a sin,
Fighting for land,
But fighting for honor,
Is God’s demand-
Many things can happen-
It’s a game for survival.
No peace is desired.
Everyone is in denial.
Nothing will be the same.
Once it starts.
The punishment of the human race begins.
The death of the brain
The death of the heart
The beginning of all sins
The light of the planet
Slowly just dims

Sammy Mardukhayev 850


It isn’t a bore.
Hard to the core.
You can’t be soft.
You have to keep going,
Even if you are lazy,
I know it sounds crazy.
But you have to keep rowing,
Since it’s like a boat,
And you don’t want to drown.
You can’t act like a clown,
Must protect your country.
Take the stress
Make sure, I can see you’re a mess.
Once the weakness is seen,
No one is going to fight clean.
Tricks turn dirty.
I know this rhyme’s getting wordy.
So sorry for this
I just want to get the point across-
“Life is bliss”
We don’t need death.
But we see it right to left.
We’ve got to stop this war .
It don’t make sense.
Not even a little bit!!

Joseph Chaudhary 850


Who are we to judge someone that

Fought for their country and life?
Who are we to ask if they’re alright?
When clearly they’re not.
What’s the point in making them
Feel bad once more?
Who are we to doubt, that a women
Can’t join the army?
Did they feel right when they
Sexually harassed her?
Took advantage of her?
Called her pathetic?
You know what she worked really hard
Became a captain
And came out on the top?
Those men became
The pathetic ones.
Dedicated to Mrs. Valerie Murdock

Morsheda Kabir 850


It’s not a video game.

It’s not the game.
It’s pushing yourself.
And thinking everything is your last-
It can change you completely.
It’s like a knife in your back forever.
You can see people dying right in front of you
And you think what if I’m next.
You want to change everything to go back in time
You know what’s done is done.
It can’t change
And you’ll never be the same.

Mudasser Hussain 850


The war
Can change the lives for many people.
It can make you become
a different person.
It changes the way you
Think… speak… and act.
It can change you,
Emotionally, mentally and physically.
It kills you on the inside
And changes who you are

Amy Con 850

5. Oral History- Backward Design- Using the Poetry of
Herman Baron III to develop oral history poetic

Herman Baron III- Backward Design Oral History-

These poems were inspired by the poetry of Herman Baron III


He’s a father who regrets the things he’s done on the streets.
Who wanted to do things for his daughter.
It seems to me, he is a drug dealer that just wanted some money
for his daughter’s college fund.
He feels that since he’s the man, it was his job to do this.
Even if he’s distant, he’ll find a way.
I can’t do it.
I can’t be saved.
I tried and tried
To save myself
With the bible.
I fall . . .
Hell will take over me
The worst part is
I “ain’t “ dead
Hell on Earth
Can’t be saved

Morsheda Kabir 850


Left daughter.
Loves daughter.
Still wants to help daughter.
Misses daughter.
Wishes for daughter.
Still going to fight for daughter
And he knows
And she maybe knows
But I know, because he said so

Morsheda Khabir 850

Herman Baron III

Really missing my daughter,

Just wish I could support her.
But now we’re separated,
Not the family that we once were.
Now I’m stuck in jail,
Using her college money as bail.
I tried to stay out of trouble,
But I know that my plan failed
I let my little bro down too
Said I would be there through and through
But now I’m kept in this jailhouse cell,
And the thought of him gives me the blues.
Now I wait till I’m set free,
And on that day I guarantee.
To make sure that I undo my wrongs,
Starting with my family.

Cayla Turner 850

Illustration made by Robine Jean Pierre 850

The same

You, Mr. Baron, are very true

My father, I wish he could be just like you
The thought of him makes my face blue
Oh-how I wish he were like you.
If only he knew the things that you do.
To be there for your baby girl.
It would make his head whirl.
A little girl I am no more-
So watch this little girl walk out the door.
She will be a star, going far-
Out of your life to be someone’s wife

April Ruby Diamond Snape 850

The Worst Herman Baron

(Marsheida is using lingo used by the adult poet Herman Baron)

Don’t want the worst for ya bro

You know I love you for sure
Can’t stand to loose you
I can’t have you die
It’ll blow my damn mind
I’m sorry for what I’ve done
Boy don’t be like your older brother
Please bro…
Please bro…
No more…

Morsheda Kabir 850

What it can take

The planner of his demise.

The path unfortunately customized.
His fault, his wrong doing.
But not his intentions.
The regret he feels.
Making sure his is real
His character made of steel
To understand his mistakes
And what it can take

The Same

Dear, Mr. Baron III

How my heart aches in pain
Reading your poems, chills run through my veins
Tears to my eyes, reading your poems, it can’t be a lie
If I had a dad like you, I would go to heaven and die
My dad doesn’t care, I can tell by the way he stares
He has no love for his own flesh, his own blood
Tears wash over me as if I was in a flood
He was never there, to wipe my tears, my birthday years
The world joy we never shared
And we will never this year, the next or the future
The torture on my heart, I can not take
The pressure on my heart will cause it to break
So hurt inside I cannot bear to see your face
My heart always beating like I’m in a race
Memories playing a video tape

April Ruby Diamond Snape 850

6. Up Close and Personal- Mr. Downes’s beloved dad-
Richard Francis Downes

Richard Downes-Father of Michael Downes

Richard Francis Downes

I got drafted to France for D-Day.

I was in training at Shelby Mississippi.
I was in the Battle of Bulge.
Four years in Europe.
Till I can go home.
From 1941-1945.
Wait… I got hit!!!
But I have a feeling.
It’s a friendly fire.
Later on-
I was awarded the
“Purple Heart.”

Amy Con 850

Watching from a shining star

Watching from a shining star,

Son, I wonder where you are.
Here I’m waiting, up so high-
Until you’re ready to reach the sky
I hear your voice, you speak of me,
You teach them of my history.
It makes a smile form on my face.
I sit with God, watching from space.
Watching from a shining star.
Now I’ve found just where you are.
There’s no need now to sit and sigh.
I know my story will not die.

Robine Jean-Pierre 850

Military insignias of Richard Francis Downs.

7. After word
Advice for 21st Century Oral Historians

You know how it feels when you have the sense that you are somewhere you
don’t want to be, at a particular point in time? It’s a feeling I had the very first
day this program started. An oral history program for teens? What on earth
were we going to be doing? This was just going to be a waste of time. That time
would have been better spent going online, like any normal teen. Except that
through this program, I have become just the opposite of any normal teen. I’m a
teen who cares. I’m a teen who has made history.

As an oral historian and a reader of oral history, I’ve made a mark, not only for
people, but for my life. I changed it completely. I am not talking about “change”
as it is shown in the movies. That change is all made up. This is real change.

I have interviewed people, who survived the Holocaust. They shared their real
experiences as survivors of the Holocaust. I breathed in these real experiences.
Through oral history in this year 2010, I have been able to “feel” what it was like
to survive during that time.

The journey I and other 850 students took to create both a video —The Living
Proof –The Holocaust Happened and this book including other oral history
interviews and writings; was a challenging one. It was also enjoyable. In the
process, we made new friends. We learned much about history, others and
ourselves. We went past boundaries. We went to places, we had never visited.

This has been a journey, we loved making. We reenacted and wrote about some
of the stories shared. In the future, we will share some of these stories.

Bibi Morium
Reaching out to the current generation of leaders:

As an educator and literacy support for this project, it has a joy to work with
these spirited, caring and responsive students. Their talents, grasp of language
formats, and their deep emotional connection to the various historical eras/
personalities, demonstrates that oral history is a powerful vehicle for engaging
21st century citizens.

Creating the film that accompanied this project and crafting this art rich book,
allowed these teens to produce products that richly reflected the transformative
power of their dialogue with those who had experienced adult life in all its

They will share these histories, generate others, and make their own.


Dr. Rose Cherie Reissman

President of New York City Association of Teachers of English
LEAP Law, Education, and Partnership Consultant

John Ranz. (2003) Inhumanity-Death March to Buchenwald. New York:


Hannah Rigler. (2006). 10 British Soldiers Rescued Me. New York: Jay

Studs Terkel. (1997). The Good War. New York: New Press.

Steve Zeitlin. (1991). City Play. New York: Scribner.

Check out: Ditmas Award Winning Living Proof documentary- The Holocaust

Part 1:

Part 2:
We, the Students- Writing Institute Press

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