Friday, September 03, 2010

Bottom Rail on Top

I was watching Ken Burns's PBS documentary on the Civil War the other day. A runaway slave fighting for the Union recognized his former master in a column of Confederate prisoners, and told him, "Hello, massa. Bottom rail on top this time." It reminded me of an incident that occurred in the New York City Marathon back in my younger days when I was running it nearly every year and clocking respectable times for a recreational runner. As was my custom, I was wearing a sleeveless top with the Israeli flag on the chest and back. I caught up with a badly faltering German runner in the last mile. I remembered the death marches, where Jewish concentration camp inmates were marched by the German S.S. westward toward Germany, ahead of the advancing Red Army. The S.S. would point their guns at the starving, half-dead inmates and shout, "Schnell, Schnell" - fast, fast. Many who could not keep up were shot on the spot. Now, I knew I had nothing against a fellow athlete about my age who was not even born until after the Holocaust, but in the last mile of a marathon your brain plays tricks on you. As I passed the German, I turned toward him, made the universal gun sign (index finger pointed at the target and parallel to the ground, thumb perpendicular to index finger, other fingers turned inward as if in a fist) and called out, "Schnell, Schnell." I don't know what if anything he said or what kind of facial expression he had when he got a good look at the Israeli flag on the back of my shirt.

Finishing my last N.Y.C. Marathon
in 2003

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's sick, and you should be ashamed of yourself.

Mon Sep 06, 10:30:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Zev Stern said...

Spoken like a man (?) who won't state his (?) name.

Mon Sep 06, 01:30:00 PM EDT  

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