Witness by Karen Hesse


Leonara Sutter

Six years have gone by,

But I still remember it like it was yesterday.

A time like today, the Ku Klux Klan started appearing in Vermont,

Worsening the racism situation that was already bad.

Although the little girl Esther and I were not liked because of our race,

The entrance of the Klan did turn everyone against us,

leaving no one to protect us and our families.

Fortunately, most of the people are now opening their eyes,

To the realization that the Klan is not what it claims to be.

Johnson did realize this when she suspected it for sending the letter,

The letter that threatened to tie Esther and I to the train tracks,

After I saved her from the same harness.

The Klan did not like us much


I was Black and my little friend Esther was Jewish.

I still try to understand why they gave us such a treatment

Even though we were just innocent children.

I am happy now that things are becoming better,

Many are realizing that race is not a crime.

I try to forgive the others for their betrayal

But I cannot say the same for my little friend Esther.

She is consumed by hate

and is always looking for ways to avenge her father’s death.

Esther Hirsh

The night daddy got a bullet into him is still so fresh on my mind

I am older now and it makes more sense than it did then.

It is clear that we were always unwelcomed in Vermont,

Not because we were criminals, but because of our Jewish background.

I am always wondering, is being a Jew a crime?

Then why? Why did they have to murder my daddy?

I have been stripped of the only family I knew and had,

Left to grow up as an orphan.

But as times are now changing

I am longing for revenge.

I am wiser now, and will be stronger too

I wonder how they would feel like when they are the ones being oppressed and killed!

I have come to learn of my rights as a child and as a Jewish.

That right is similar to what other whites from Vermont enjoyed.

But did they treat us equally?

I will take their children and put them in my own shoe.

Oh how I long that I could slaughter them one by one!

But I thank my friend Leonara for speaking sense into me.

I know I am too precious to stain my hands with their blood.

I am glad that the law is finally changing,

Soon enough, there will be difference between blacks, Jewish and the whites.

I long to see their faces,

Those who watched and enjoyed in my suffering.

Those who went against us thinking that they would benefit from the Klan!

Harvey and Viola Pettibone

It has been weeks now

Since I had to shut down our shop Viola.

Look at what has become of us,

We lost all customers because of our association with the Klan.

I wonder what went wrong,

They promised to see us through by bringing more customers.

But instead they brought us problems and more problems.

We are now considered murders!

Oh why did we not help the little girl and her father?


I should have warned you back then,

I knew there was no reason to mistreat them because of their race.

I do not understand what blinded us,

Now we will pay dearly for being on the wrong side of the battle.

It is unfortunate that someone killed the little girl’s daddy,

But now the leaders of the Klan have abandoned us.

We are the only criminals now.


Viola, I wish we knew that they had no good intentions.

But what happened already did,

So we can only plan ahead.

Let us make peace with them and rejoin our own people.

The Klan is nothing but trouble.

But from now on, let us learn from this mistake

If we are accepted back in, let us learn to appreciate each other no matter our differences.

Esther Hirsh

Now I hear they are all sorry,

Everyone is running back the other way, away from trouble.

But will their actions bring back my daddy?

I am still full of sorrow,

My heart still bleeds for my daddy,

The only parent I had left that fate stripped away from me!

 I remember how I could not buy items freely at shop,

I was a little girl back then, who knew nothing about race or prejudice,

But they still discriminated against me.

What should I do now?

Are they simply trying to lie to me so they can avoid paying for what they did?

But then again, how can I simply forgive the very same people

who joined the group that murdered my father?

I am grateful for the changing laws,

I am hopeful that my daddy will finally get justice

But I cannot help but feel like I need more than just that.

I miss my daddy, I miss how he cared for me!

I cannot tell just how much I feel that the bullet was actually meant for me.

I have heard many whispers behind my back.

Many times I sleep and dream that he was back here,

And I was still a 6 year old girl.

I would then relive the situation where I was having chasing games with another child,

But I ended up falling and hitting my head hard on the rock.

My daddy would be there taking care of me before he starts bleeding and fading away.

Leonara Sutter

I always feel like Esther is my responsibility

I must be there to keep her in check.

Despite being a 12 year old girl now,

She is consumed by anger and hatred similar to a scorned 60 year old woman.

I did not leave her then, so I will not leave her side now.

But I feel strongly that she needs to be examined.

What she saw and experienced at such a tender age impacted her greatly.

Although we were being discriminated and treated unequally,

She was always full of life.

She encouraged me to go through it all too.


The trauma seems to have made her loose her mind.

More than once I hear her speak to herself!

She calls her dog, Jerry!

Then she speaks of her plan to soon revenge on all those who contributed in her suffering.

How, then, can I assist this young girl?

I am no longer worried about the discrimination,

People can now walk freely

Without fear of being killed for being of a different race rather than white.

A lot of changes are being embraced into our society today

Clearly, Vermont is no longer the same as it was back in 1924.

More people of color are being welcomed.

They are even being given prestigious government posts.

Hopefully this marks the beginning of the end of racial discrimination and prejudice.

Reynard Alexander


I am happy at the turn of events.

For years I have had to write in support of those being discriminated against.

I had had to engage in a word fight with the Klan.

I am glad that over the years,

many have had to rethink the support they offered it.

The Klan is not a part of Vermont, and it will never be.

The fight is not ending, but just beginning.

How I hope that we will not give up too soon.

The war against the Klan and all its beliefs

Can only be won when we all come together.

I have never had to lie to the people of Vermont.

Look at the different loved ones

We have had to lose before the citizens of Vermont

Could finally accept the truth?

Both the young and old have fallen prey and lost their lives.

What kind of a human being kills another simply because of race?

Is there a race that is more superior than the other?

Do the people have special features that others do not?


I can only see a difference in skin color!

This is why I am glad that they are all going to have to pay

Let them serve jail terms and pay for their mistakes.

Finally, justice is going to be served for all who suffered!