During my Winter Term in 2009, I took the class with Elie Wiesel called Souls on Fire. I had taken my college search very seriously and visited a number of schools across the country to find my perfect fit, the school that would help shape me into an adult I could be proud of by means of education and experience. My decision to attend Eckerd College had been heavily influenced by the fact that Elie Wiesel chose to teach classes there. I had applied for the Winter Term class my senior year and can honestly say I enjoyed that class more than any other I’ve ever taken. It was an honor to have had the opportunity to study under Carolyn Johnston and Elie Wiesel.
The topics we covered, the discussions we had, and the opportunity to openly discuss global and humanitarian issues were highlights of my academic career. One aspect of the class that stood out to me was Elie Wiesel himself. He was soft-spoken and gentle. He had a quiet and caring nature.
The passion he had for others and his work was so apparent. I asked him during class once what he saw himself as since he had attained so many labels throughout his life. He was a father, a son, a brother, a grandfather, a husband, a survivor, an author, a spokesman, a chairman, a founder of a committee, etc.
And his answer was, “I see myself as a witness.” He had a voice I will never forget. I will always remember how moving it was to hear him read excerpts of his own work to the class.
His voice was thoughtful, lacked any pretense and was full of hope. His ability to forgive, to dedicate his life to telling his story, to teach others despite what he had gone through is a great gift to humanity. A reason for hope in humanity exists within future generations, and I remember someone asking him what a turning point was in his life, and he said that becoming a father turned his world upside down. He expressed hope for the future. And because of him and his being himself, there is hope.
The world lost a truly remarkable and honorable man who left this world better than he’d found it. I kept all of my notes and papers from the Souls on Fire class and looked through the material recently. Certain things Elie Wiesel said are important for us all to think about as citizens, as human beings. In the midst of the numerous terrorist attacks around the world, I find myself looking at these closer and closer. Elie Wiesel said:
The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.
There is beauty in asking questions together.
Whoever listens to a witness becomes a witness.
Every event is a turning point.
After leaving Eckerd, I attended Boston University for photography school. I live in my hometown of Dallas, Texas, and am a wedding photographer and also work at Fossil Group headquarters. I had the pleasure of going back to Eckerd for a visit in April 2015 and was excited to see all the changes that are happening. Eckerd will always be a special place for me, and even more so because of Elie Wiesel.
—Alexandra Minton Fraler ’09