Grade school students in Ozaukee County took an excellent adventure through history as part of Now Media Group’s student writing contest. Participants were prompted to describe what it would be like to be part of a historical event, and the entries ran the gamut of some of the biggest moments in the history of mankind.
The first-place winner in the third- through fifth-grade division (18 entries) and the sixth- through eighth-grade division (22 entries) each won $50. Below are the top three finishers in each age group.
Sixth- through eighth-grade division
First place: Olivia Wulff, seventh grade, Webster Middle School
The door creaked open and a man walked in. His hair was parted on the side and laid smoothly on his head. Underneath his nose was a thin mustache. He sat at his chair across his long desk.
“Let us get this over with,” he spoke in a thick voice.
“Chancellor Hitler, I would like to speak to you about your future plans.”
His coal eyes searched my face. Pressing his lips together, he sighed. “It should be rather clear. I want to purify the population.” His eyes tightened, a message flowing between us.
“Chancellor, I am a part of the Nazi Party. I would just like to speak with you about how you may be hurting the population.” I hoped that being part of the Nazi Party would make him listen to me, even if my father had forced me to join.
He looked at me as if he were surprised. “Hurting the population?” He smiled even though it didn’t seem fitting with the situation. “Surely you don’t understand, as you are too young. But I can assure you I am doing my best to keep Germany pure.”
“Sir, don’t get me wrong,” I said, uneasily. “I agree that Germany should keep its roots clean an-“
“Please, I have no time for this.” He stood up, his face twisted into a disgusted scowl.
Fear clenched my stomach as I stood up, too. Who knew what this man could do to me and my family?
“Come with me. I’ll show you want I plan to do from here on out.”
He led me into a small room, with a farmer’s scarecrow in it. On the dummy, written in bold, black letters was the word “Jew.”
He handed me an object shaped like a boomerang; it was coated with black and silver.
“There is one enemy to the German people. One who isn’t fit to live alongside us.” He paused. “You know what to do.”
I nodded, swallowing loudly. I was taught that what he was doing was good, that the Jews were bad. My father would want me to shoot, and the man standing beside me wanted that, too. So, I raised the gun and aimed.
I always remember this day. The day when I could have changed my life, as well as all of the Jews. But instead, I ignored my beliefs … and I pulled the trigger.
Second place: Sadie LaHaie, eighth grade, Webster Transitional School
I sprung up from the couch, and looked into the kitchen to see my mother already preparing eggs and sausage. I looked to the right side of the room, and saw my brother holding a worn book in hand, slowly reading through the pages.
“Lance, today’s the day,” I whispered eagerly.
“Mum won’t ever let you,” he replied with a smirk.
I smiled and walked to our dining table, a plate of breakfast waiting. I wolfed down my food, glanced at the clock; it was 3:53 in the morning. I smiled at my mum and nodded thanks to her.
“The papers,” I said to Lance. He folded the top corner of the page, set his book down and rose off the chair.
“Mum, we’re taking a bit of a detour after our route,” Lance said quickly. We rushed toward the door, and grabbed our satchels quickly. Lance yanked the door open right before our mother started to shout. We stopped, turning around.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“Mum, I, uh, wanted to see someone,” I mumbled.
“No. Return home after delivering the papers.”
We trudged down flights of stairs and hallways to the basement, where we had storage. I grabbed my old red bike, attaching a crate for a basket. Lance grabbed his new silver bike, and set his satchel in the gleaming metal basket as I set mine in the crate. We lugged our bikes outside, biked to the local news stand we worked for, grabbed the papers, and threw them into our baskets. I started to bike down the city streets and made familiar turns to the suburbs, and threw today’s newspapers into grassy yards. I stopped at the last corner, looked back, and saw Lance on his side of the street. He looked up at me, finished his route, and crossed the road. We started to bike the few miles to Roosevelt Field.
I threw my bike to the ground and ran across Roosevelt Field. I rushed to the front of the crowd. Lindbergh scanned the crowd, waving; he made eye contact with me, smiling. I reached the front and felt a hand on my shoulder.
“Lance!” I pointed forward at Lindbergh climbing into his plane. I beamed as the plane rose off the ground. I never felt happier. I got to see my idol, Charles Lindbergh, take off on a long flight, my dream.
Third place: Calvin Szpiszar, eighth grade, Trinity Lutheran Freistadt
April 5th, 1912. Five days before I leave. The anticipation is killing me. I have a ticket on the Titanic. I’ve never had an opportunity like this before, so I’m very nervous yet excited. My family won’t be able to come along because of the costs, but I will miss them dearly. They’re all very jealous of my opportunity, and so are my coworkers. My oldest is worried that something is going to happen to the boat, but I have reassured her that this ship is unsinkable. Everyone says so, and how can you doubt the media?
It is now April 10th, 1912. I’m boarding the Titanic in about two hours. It’s a two-hour drive from where I live to the port. Hugs are being exchanged, kisses are being given. My oldest is still so worried that something is going to happen to me. I kiss both of my children on the forehead, then kiss my wife and head out the door. I jump in my car and pull out of my driveway. Little did I know, in a couple days I would make history.
Late at night on April the 14th, I was strolling along the upper deck when I heard an alarm, followed by screaming from all directions. All of a sudden, crowds start running toward me. I grab what looks to be an attendant by the arm and ask him what’s going on. He screams at me, saying the ship is sinking. He shakes free of my grip and continues to run with the rest of the crowd.
I sprint after the crowd, my dress shoes slipping on the damp deck. When I finally catch up, I see attendants loading people into lifeboats. I try and get into one, but they tell me that women and children must board first. I wait patiently for my trip on, but the boat is sinking rapidly. I make a split-second decision and dive over the side of the boat into the icy Atlantic.
As the feeling of numbness spreads throughout my body, I begin to feel very warm. I let my body spread across the gentle waters, waiting to meet my demise when I am scooped up by an attendant. He tells me that I had been floating in the water for about three days. I survived, but there weren’t many that could say the same.
Third- through fifth-grade division
First place: Ava Albrecht, fifth grade, Wilson Elementary School
I was taken just three weeks ago. Grabbed and taken to this horrendous place. Before being captured by the Nazis, me and my friends called this place “The Fun House.”
Now that I’ve been here I feel shame for making the concentration camps a joke. If only they could see me now, they’d be proud that me, Marta Schmidt, is the last to arrive!
Unfortunately, when I got here I couldn’t find them. I know what this means. I wish I didn’t, as soon I’m stacked behind 58 other kids for another cruel activity.
When I reached the front, I met the eyes of a man with hair as white as the skin of most of the kids here, and he wore a jacket with four L’s on it. All facing different directions. He was cleaning rusty, old electric clippers with a bloody handkerchief. I closed my eyes as he turned it on, only to open them again when I felt shards of hair, drops of blood, and tears of a praying girl covering my forehead,
Then, he sent me outside to play with the other children. I sensed the worst was yet to come. I was right.
Eight days later, we finally got the privilege to wash up in the group shower. I walked in with some other random faces. I turned on the faucet expecting warm water to spray out, melting my fear away. But, instead, a misty, foggy substance filled the air.
The oxygen seemed to curdle as it hit my throat. The world started to tremble and shake, and darken. I closed my eyes hoping to prevent it. I soon found that was a mistake.
I tumbled to the ground along with the other kids. I felt the darkness surrounding me. I was powerless and weak to do anything about it.
Then, suddenly a light appeared. As I moved closer toward it, I realized that was not just a light.
It was freedom.
Second place: Emily Sauer, fifth grade, Donges Bay Elementary
“A Cause Worth Fighting For”
I, Collette, have been to many slave auctions in Montgomery, Alabama, before. I have seen many slaves be bought, and sold. But there was one auction in 1846 in particular that I want to tell you about. I was there with my father, and we were going to buy me a slave to be my maid. I was excited to be there, and as a supporter of slavery, I wanted to make the best of my time there.
While I was at the auction, I saw a little girl about 7 years old. She was alone. I knew that she shouldn’t have been there, but at the moment, I didn’t care.
But then the man auctioning slaves pushed her up to the front so people could see her. The little girl started to cry as the man up at the front started talking loudly about how she could be trusted with jobs that 7-year-olds usually couldn’t do. I laughed.
She looked at me and whispered, “You don’t understand.” I felt as if someone had slapped me in the face. Of course I understood! I understood perfectly that she didn’t want to be there, but she was; and that was that.
“You shouldn’t be talking to me,” I said in the loudest and most superior tone possible. “You might get in trouble. You certainly would be crying then.”
But she stepped down from the platform with a sniffle, and looked me in the eye. “No. You don’t understand. I am a slave. I don’t want to be here, and it is not right. I may be little, but I know what’s like to lose both my parents, and work almost every minute of my life.”
In that moment I saw her through new eyes. To me that girl wasn’t a slave anymore, but a girl who should be living in a real home. I wanted to help her, and stop slavery. That girl suddenly meant a lot to me. I asked my father to buy her, and he agreed. Her name was Isabelle. I asked my father if he would adopt her into our family instead of making her my maid. To my great surprise, he said yes! I am now proud to say Isabelle is my friend, as well as my sister. She is my cause worth fighting for.
Third place: Gianna Belgiorno, fifth grade, Grafton Elementary
Today was the day. I was on the way to a better life. Papa said this was for the good, even though we might not ever see the Johnsons again.
I was on my way over to say goodbye, along with Papa, Mama, Charles and our oxen. When we arrived, I knocked on their door. I stood there a moment, and to my disappointment, nobody answered. I hopped back into the back of the wagon.
“How’s Joseph?” Mama asked when I entered.
“Nobody was home,” I mumbled, longing to play and go to school with my best friend.
“Well, maybe we can send letters?” Mama said hopefully, trying to cheer me up.
“From Oregon all the way to Nebraska? We all know that’s not possible,” I replied.
“Everybody here?” Papa suddenly said, looking back at us from his high seat to guide the oxen.
“1, 2, 3, we’re all here!” Mama counted us children as she looked Papa.
“Okay! Do we have everything?” Papa asked worriedly.
“David! We already counted our belongings four times! It’s going to be okay!” Mama said, a tad of humor in her voice.
“Okay then! Let’s start the journey! To the Oregon Trail!”
“To the Oregon Trail!” we all said in chorus as life-changing trail was about to meet us.
I woke up with a jolt. I sat up, and took the chalk stick and scraped a line onto the floor. That was the 143rd line, each one for a tiring day of travel.
“Papa, are we almost there?” I asked him, boredness in my tone.
“Each day we get closer and closer. Before you ask, we should get there today,” he answered.
“What? Mama! Charles! We” I was cut off by Papa shushing me.
“Charles is sleeping. He is still very ill, so when we get there, behave. Okay?” he demanded.
“Okay,” I said, a bit of disappointment in my voice. Ever since my brother got sick, it’s been extremely boring.
Suddenly, Papa shouted. “We’re here!”
I immediately shot upward when he spoke. “How do you know? You said the same thing when we reached Idaho,” I asked, suddenly feeling doubt. Then I noticed a sign, “Welcome to Oregon.”
Today was the start of the fantastic life in the west. Today, we’ve reached Oregon.