last year, upon the tenth anniversary of 9/11, i wrote these words. as i reread them this morning one year later, i feel compelled to share them again. they represent the deepest desires of my heart not just concerning that fateful day and the narrative that has followed, but about life as a whole, and my (and your) part in it. i hope you'll read these words, nod enthusiastically where you agree, and be challenged by them to move beyond your comfort level. i know i am. -greg.
"six years later"
paper collage on cardboard panel
gregory a. milinovich
tomorrow is, of course, the tenth anniversary of the terror attacks aimed at the united states and it's symbols of financial, military, and political power. while i may have nothing new to add to the conversation about this tragic event, i am nonetheless compelled to say something, as this story is one that will not let me go. each year i get out a file of news clippings and reread the stories, allowing myself to feel again the feelings that were so fresh after that tuesday in 2001. this year, as in past years, as i walk my own personal journey of remembering, i have watched oliver stone's world trade center, as well as united 93 and a dvd featuring the cbs news coverage from september 11, 2001. some may assume that my fascination is morbid, but it isn't. i simply find this story - a story that represents the end of something in america and the beginning of a new era - unbelievably compelling.
this isn't for everyone. for some, just going through it once was enough, and they never want to see another image of that plane entering the second tower, or of bodies falling dozens of stories to the manhattan floor below. i understand that. in fact, i would generally warn against watching too much of the footage of that day, or immersing yourself too deeply in this story because it can cause us to darken. it can poison our hearts and allow us to sink into anger and even despair. and while revisiting this story can cause me to re-experience all the feelings of fear, anger, confusion and a desire for revenge, those are not the lasting flavors for me.
i have hope.
and it's not a hope about rebuilding. it's not about reestablishing ourselves as a beacon of capitalism or a mecca of military might. it's not a hope about revenge or snuffing out terrorism. my hope, as naive as it may be, is about love.
i have hope that a day is coming when people won't be filled with such hate that they feel validated in killing thousands of children, women and men just to try and make things right.
i have hope that a day is coming when people won't dance in the street at the news of death - any death.
i have hope that a day is coming when people won't be judged by the slant of their eyes, the color of their skin, the clothes they wear, or the culture they grew up in.
i have hope that a day is coming when people can really work together, not just to remove rubble from a crash site, but to remove the obstacles that keep us from really helping one another on a global, national, and community scale.
i have hope that the story of 9/11 won't be one with final chapters about death and revenge, about 10-year wars and osama bin laden.
i have hope that this story will be about redemption, about learning that our decisions as a nation - all of them - about food and oil and technology and democracy, have a real if not measurable effect not just on "nations" but on real people in those nations (including us!).
i have hope that 9/11 taught us that we aren't the only ones in this world.
i have hope that 9/11 taught us to love our families better; to hold them tighter; to tell them we love them; and to prove it with our lives.
i have hope that 9/11 taught us that the heroes are us, or no one; that there comes a time when either we say "let's roll" or we sit back and watch death happen to us and others.
i have hope that when given the choice between life and death, we choose life, and not just for ourselves.
i have hope that when we sing "God bless America" we don't think that means that God shouldn't bless every other nation and person God created and adores.
i have hope that we will "never forget," not so that we can maintain an unhealthy angry patriotism, but so that we can learn to follow the lead of love in the little ways, which will all add up to making a difference in our global community, and will truly honor the fallen.
i have hope that the survivors of this tragedy (you and i and all americans and all arabs and all those who still hate americans and who still hate arabs and so forth and so on) will live to tell a different story.
i have hope that the plot can be twisted.
i have hope that we can follow the advice of the one who taught us to love our enemies, not dance in the street when they are killed.
i have hope that the Church of Jesus Christ will really learn to believe what we say we believe: that death has been defeated already, and that God's Kingdom - in which we are all citizens - is calling us to forgive as we have been forgiven.
i have hope.
and so i cannot sit by idly. i cannot let myself sink into hate or even apathy. i cannot let fear rule the day. like those brave people on united flight 93, i must look square at the darkness in my own heart and say "let's roll." i must face it head-on, so that the moments that make up my hours that make up my days that make up my weeks that make up my months that make up my years that make up my life will be about love, and not hate; welcoming and not marginalizing; embracing and not excluding; light and not darkness; community and not isolation; life and not death. i must realize that if there is to be another chapter to the 9/11 story then it will need to be you and i that write it, and indeed we are writing it right now. and what are we saying? that we cared for awhile? that we can have unity as long as we have a common fear or anger to bind us? that we will be sickened to see others dance in the streets at the demise of our sisters and brothers, only to find ourselves dancing in our own streets at the death of one man? will it be a story of status quo? a story of apathy? a story of despair? or a story of hope? a story of life?
i, for one, am choosing life. i, for one, am choosing to believe that beauty can arise from the ashes, and that the beauty i believe in is not a building or a monument or even the warm fuzzies that come from the stories of survivors. the beauty i believe in is life coming from death, light from darkness, hope from despair.
i have hope.