Last Tuesday I heard Elie Wiesel give a lecture at UF. Yes, the Elie Wiesel, author of Night. When the local paper announced (in a tiny column at the bottom of a page) that he was coming the the university, I knew I had to go. Apparently everybody else in town also decided they had to go, because when I got there, a huge crush of people were already waiting in line. Students had already seized ALL the tickets the day before, so the general public stood for an hour hoping that some students wouldn't show up.
Maybe about ten people got in.
The rest of us waited in vain. Finally we were told that a screen and speakers had been set up on the lawn so that we could hear Professor Wiesel speak.
Here's the screen. And obviously, that isn't Prof. Wiesel. Once he started speaking they told us we weren't allowed to take photos, so I took this during the previews. Yes, they ran previews.
When Elie Wiesel finally was introduced, they pronounced his name wrong. He corrected them. (For the record, it's Eh-LEE Vee-ZEL. Seriously, all they had to do was Google it.)
He told one story about a time he was in the hospital recovering from surgery. His young grandson came to see him and said, "Grandpa, I love you very very much. And you suffer very, very much. If I love you more, will you suffer less?"
I can't remember all that he said. I wish I could. But after the lecture, there was a time for questions. One girl asked him what it was like to meet Oprah.
That I won't forget.
Another person asked him what would happen when the last Holocaust witness dies. Wiesel answered,
"That will never happen. 'You are my witnesses,' says the Lord, in the book of Isaiah. Witnesses testify about what they have seen. I have told you what I have witnessed. And now," (Wiesel smiled) "I appoint all of you witnesses. You can tell what you have seen."
And suddenly my novel about the Holocaust feels legit.