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11 Million Paper Clips
Wednesday, Apr 11, 2007 from Wilmore, Kentucky
Posted: Apr 11, 2007 | 361 words | 1 Comments
There is a lot to be said for small town America. Well there are some towns where there simply cannot be enough said. One of those is Whitwell, TN. Located about 30 miles outside of Chattanooga, Whitwell is the epitome of small-town life in America. With 1,600 residents there is next to no diversity. Like many small towns there is little scope for the outside world. I’ve heard it all, as my hometown fits the category quite well. But like I said, not enough can be said for Whitwell, especially Whitwell Middle School.
I first heard about Whitwell from my dear friend Amanda who sent me a copy of Paper Clips, a documentary film that takes place in Whitwell. In 1998 the school started a new program for their 8th graders. To learn more about diversity, humanity, an adversity across the world the class started to learn about the Holocaust. Before long they set a lofty goal, to collect one paper clip for every Jew that was murdered during the Holocaust, that’s 6,000,000 paper clips. After a slow start they estimated it would take 10 years to finish.
It wouldn’t take long for the class to start receiving paper clips from all of the living presidents, from Holocaust survivors, from every state in the nation, and from countries around the world. Eventually 6 million paper clips would become a small number. National news programs were notified, book publishers showed interest, and a documentary film would be in the making. In total they would collect over 30 million paper clips.
Though it didn’t work out to stay in Whitwell like I had hoped, I did pass through after leaving Knoxville. At Whitwell Middle School stands the Children’s Holocaust Memorial. Inside an original German rail car are 11 million paper clips representing everyone who was killed during the Holocaust. It was dedicated on November 9th, 2001.
Students at Whitwell are still learning about the Holocaust one 8th grade class at a time. It’s inspiring to see what one small town can accomplish. And I hope that other towns big and small can create projects of their own that will transcend time.
Comment by Nicole Maggard
From DeWitt, MI
I saw this documentary a while back, I thought it was very inspiring, and I loved how they created the memorial.