On April 15, 2013, terrorism reared its ugly head once more. Like all other Americans—and, really, TV viewers from around the globe—I watched in horror and amazement as reports of the Boston bombing consumed the airwaves. As a person who was in New York City, working, on 9/11, I immediately felt a flashback to those surreal hours when I, along with my fellow New Yorkers, were stranded in the streets of Manhattan for many, many hours as police and first responders shut the city down, and stopped all points of entry and exit. It was a horrendous day—which spawned a month of constant (fake) bomb threats being called into my employer, Random House. The whole work force learned to drop everything and take to the stairwells to exit the building. This was the new reality—it was the new normal. Terrorist threats became as common a part of my life as my morning coffee and muffin were.
Flash-forward twelve years, and those awful days of anxiety and constant fear have waned. There have been “close calls” that have popped up, but, thankfully, they have always been averted before any measurable damage was done. The shooting spree at Fort Hood (November 2009) has not been officially deemed an act of terror, but rather a “workplace rage incident.” Aside from that, terrorism seemed to be a visitor who came once and wreaked maximum havoc. Boston has made that viewpoint obsolete. As I write this, there is breaking news about who caused it—no name or photo furnished as of yet—nor why it was caused, nor where the culprit or culprits lived.
Interestingly, I had been asked to be a judge for the DOLLS Awards of Excellence, and l loved going over the candidates and seeing the beautiful submissions. One of the dolls (in the category of One-of-a-Kind Doll, More than $1,250) was of Anne Frank. The tribute doll was made by Kimberly Lasher, and it touched me seeing her soulful eyes and endearing countenance. I scored her high in the Industry Choice Awards, and now post April 15, the thought of that doll and of the real Anne Frank haunts me.
When I was a managing editor at Random House, back in September 2001, I was working on a children’s chapter book, based on the original Anne Frank diary. Though Anne was quite young herself, her writing style, vocabulary, and impressions were light-years beyond a preteen and teen’s sensibilities. My job was to take the original words and make them and their context more suitable and friendly to grade-school readers.
Many of her thoughts came flooding back to me while I watched the devastation wrought in Boston, and I also recalled another Anne Frank doll that was made by artist Karen Williams Smith. That doll was made in response to a tragedy that had befallen Ms. Smith’s son, and she sought comfort and strength in the words and wisdom of Frank. A portion of the sales from that doll was given to a charity that would promote world tolerance.
Anne Frank was born in 1929 and died in 1945 in a concentration camp. She has been gone for nearly 70 years, but her honesty, candor, bravery, and optimism live on. I think that is why she continues to be a source of inspiration for authors, painters, performers, and doll artists. There is a fascinating website that has a firsthand story of a British collector who actually has dolls that are believed to have belonged to Anne Frank. It is a two-parter. Here is the link for the first section. (http://www.joysantiquedolls.net/page/page/3828364.htm)
I think that Anne Frank is a person whom we should all strive to model ourselves after. She and her family, along with other Jewish peers, hid in the “Secret Annex.” And artist Kimberly Lasher re-created the annex, along with three of the child inhabitants, in 3-D form for an ArtPrize entry. (http://www.artprize.org/kimberly-lasher/2011/the-secret-annex) Sadly, the attic dwellers were all found and brought to concentration camps, where all of the Frank family succumbed to death—except for her father, Otto Frank. During the time that they were sequestered and hidden away, they faced daily strife, turmoil caused by close proximity and stress, and, of course, the daily fear that swaddled them as they tried to survive the specter of the Nazis’ evil outreach and murderous intentions.
Her diary, which is a wonder to behold, has pearls of wisdom that are calming words—caring words and level-headed words—to help all of us living in this topsy-turvy, upside-down reality. It is especially important to note that Anne wasn’t a scholar or a philosopher or a professional writer. She was a young girl who was mad for movies, adored hanging up photos of her favorite matinee idols, and lamented whether she’d ever be as pretty as a Ginger Rogers or a Betty Grable. She was a real-live girl of her time. And her vulnerability and her sincerity have made her timeless. (And, despite his boorish behavior and self-aggrandizing ways, I think Justine Bieber was right when he created a publicity firestorm this past week. Anne probably would have been a “belieber.” She swooned for Sinatra and Astaire.)
I am going to share some of her thoughts here—7 in all, one for each day of the week—and I hope that they resonate with you during the next few weeks of either the frightening unknown or the possibly even scarier known:
“I live in a crazy time.”
“I must uphold my ideals, for perhaps the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out.”
“We all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same.”
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
“I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.”
“I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
“Who would ever think that so much went on in the soul of a young girl?”