MINDEN — By 20 minutes to the hour, the pews in the sanctuary were full — and still the people came.
By 7 o'clock, they had filled the overflow room, the choir seats, the balcony, and dozens of folding chairs set up wherever there was enough open floor space to safely hold them. Fifty or so headed to the adjacent fellowship hall to watch the proceedings on closed-circuit television.
In all, an estimated 500 people packed the Westminster United Presbyterian Church here almost literally to the rafters Thursday evening — the kind of crowd you might expect to see in that space only for the largest funeral the building could possibly hold.
But this was no funeral. In fact, it was an affirmation of life: Life that goes on against a horrifying backdrop of death, brutality, and staggering loss — including the loss of youthful innocence.
Thursday's crowd had gathered to hear the reminiscences of an Iowa woman they had never met: Holocaust survivor Kitty Williams of Council Bluffs, who shared the odyssey that led her from girlhood in Hungary, to the miseries of Auschwitz, to more than six decades as a wife, mother, grandmother and banker in the American Midwest.