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Column: Christmas Eyewitness

Eyewitnesses are crucial.
This newspaper relies on them. By the words of a witness, cops arrest people. By the testimony of a witness, criminals go to jail. An executive becomes a whistleblower and a corrupt company falls.
As an eyewitness of a cover up, Mark Felt became the most famous political whistleblower. We know his name as, “Deep Throat.” He helped uncover the Watergate scandal that led to President Nixon’s eventual resignation.
An eyewitness can be anyone. Just think about motorists who witness a car crash on Taylor Ridge. Their eyewitness accounts can provide information beneficial to the Georgia State Patrol and also to the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Troopers use them to determine who is at fault. The DOT takes the witness statements to discern if the roadway design can be altered to reduce future crashes.
Historically an eyewitness is important.
For example, do you remember July 27, 2012? That date might not bring up any memories by itself.
But listen to this account from that day and you’ll probably remember the event, especially if you live in Chattooga County.
“A column of dense, thick, black smoke streamed into the air and people reported seeing it as far away as Rome and Calhoun.”
That is a description of the fire that struck the 20-acre recycling compound in Berryton. It was one of the largest industrial fires in Georgia.
Without eyewitness accounts, conspiracy theorists would have an easier job of discrediting historical events. I’ve heard conspiracy theorists that denied the Holocaust ever happened.
Yes, you heard that correct. There are people who believe Nazis did not killed Jews.
But those conspiracy theorists have one huge problem — eyewitnesses.
The University of Southern California has a collection of nearly 55,000 video testimonies of Holocaust survivors. That’s 55,000 eyewitnesses alone.
I think back to all the World War II veterans in Chattooga County. I’ve spent time with them over the years and heard their stories about the war and Holocaust.
If you don’t trust a survivor’s testimony, then read the two volume memoirs of Rudolf Hoss. He was a German officer at one of the extermination camps. He tested various methods to accelerate Hitler’s plan to wipe out the Jews. There are numerous others who witnessed the genocide.
“I would like you to believe me. I saw the gas chambers. I saw the crematoria. I saw the open fires. I was on the ramp when the selections took place. I would like you to believe that these atrocities happened because I was there,” former German officer Rottenfuhrer Oskar Groning told British historian Laurence Rees in a BBC documentary.
We believe the Holocaust happened because we have eyewitnesses.
Events in history do not happen in a vacuum. They happen in front of people — eyewitnesses. These people, in turn, leave behind oral and written testimonies to these events.
Do you believe in the Civil War? It happened before you were born. How do you know it happened if you don’t have direct knowledge?
I’ve got friends who like to metal detect. Often, they find relics from the Civil War. But even if we didn’t have this physical proof, we still know it happened based upon the numerous letters and memoirs left behind from soldiers, etc.
You can read letters from top Civil War generals and you can read accounts from slaves and others during that period.
A lot of the people in history leave these letters behind as breadcrumbs from the past.
From the pen of Christopher Columbus, we read, “Having landed, they saw trees very green, and much water, and fruits of diverse kinds.” He is describing the first day he witnessed the new world.
Giovanni Boccaccio gave an eyewitness account from the Black Death in 1348. He writes, ” The symptoms were not the same as in the East, where a gush of blood from the nose was the plain sign of inevitable death; but it began both in men and women with certain swellings in the groin or under the armpit. They grew to the size of a small apple or an egg, more or less, and were vulgarly called tumours.”
We know the Black Death happened because of these historical eyewitnesses.
In keeping with the Christmas season, we know that the birth of Christ happened because we have eyewitnesses accounts.
The Apostle Luke wrote a letter about the eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life.
“Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you. . . so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught,” Luke said.
Immediately thereafter, Luke writes about the events leading up to the birth of Jesus — which had many eyewitnesses.
Luke writes about the multitude of shepherds that were eyewitnesses. “When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”
Eyewitnesses are crucial. Without them, we are lost.

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