Bearing Witness

After eight decades, I will continue to stand strong

I stood in the refuge home of the Friedmans, who had escaped from Germany with their two young sons. My father, a teacher at the local high school, met Henry and Herbie. We were invited for lunch. It was 1941. I was nine years old.

I stood in the hallway at my high school when our principal announced the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I can still feel the frightened shock of the event. It was 1945. I was 13 years old.

I stood among the incoming freshman class of my music college, where mostly female students highlighted the obvious absence of young men, who had gone off to war in Korea. It was 1950. I was 18 years old.

I stood in my first voter line in New York City to cast my ballot for John F. Kennedy. It was 1960. I was 28 years old.

I stood ironing in my kitchen and heard the news: “President John F. Kennedy has been shot in a Dallas, Texas, motorcade. He has died.” It was 1963. I was 31 years old.

I stood for Martin Luther King’s funeral prayer service. It was 1964. I was 32 years old.

I stood in anti-nuclear protests. It was 1980. I was 48 years old.

I stood at the liturgy for the murdered Maryknoll nuns in El Salvador. It was 1982. I was 50 years old.

After many more reasons to march, it is now 2017. I am 84 years old. My footprints are in step with millions who are just learning how to stand. Our steps will stretch across a well-worn path of what it means to witness our common history with silence, singing, dancing and speaking to be heard.

I will continue to stand for as long as it takes.

Nina Tepedino is an author who lives in Sebastopol.

Open Mic is a weekly feature in the ‘Bohemian.’ We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write [email protected].