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August 10th, 2009

Classmates remember Lost ‘Sole’ Through Book of Shoes

Where have your shoes been?  What do they say about you?  From doodles to rips, heels to boots, your shoes express your personality, perhaps more than any other piece of clothing.  We stomp, run, and play in our shoes.  We spend hours and pound miles of pavement in them.  As a result, we don’t talk about wearing someone else’s sweater; we invoke empathy by inviting our friends to walk a mile in our shoes.  The classmates of a deceased boy scout in Omaha have moved beyond this cliche, however.  In memory of their friend, Ben Petrzilka, they have created a book titled Our Soles. The book pairs their writing with pictures of their shoes.

Ben was killed when a tornado raged through his boy scout camp in June, 2008.  The twister that took Ben’s life was well reported; the New York Times title says it all:  “Deafening Howl, Then Deadly Chaos for Scouts.”  That article reports that the scouts were playing cards on the porch at Little Sioux Scout Ranch in Iowa,  waiting for what they thought was a rainstorm, when the ranger heard a faint siren and ordered the scouts to take cover.  The cyclone left four deaths and multiple injuries in its wake, but thankfully many scouts were saved by their own handy first aid skills.

Ben’s unique mannerism inspired the book of soles.  Ben’s mother, Arnell Petrzilka, explained to KETV 7, “Ben had a habit, when you would drive down the road, and you’d see a shoe on the side of the road, he would call it a lost ‘sole.’”  Classmates took that idea and ran with it, so to speak. They spent the last six months preparing a book in his memory.  Each classmate contributed an picture of their own shoe for Our Soles. They described the journey that their shoe took them on.  Ben’s mother and father also contributed a reflection on their son’s scouting shoes. (To see what Ben’s best friend wrote about, watch this video from

How will your shoes be remembered?  That may sound like a flippant question in the face of such a moving tribute, but I mean it as a call to awareness.  To return to my initial question, What do your shoes say about you?  Ben loved imagining shoe stories–what is yours?

Top photo by David Masters.


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