Processing the tragedy of 7/16 by creating
An elaborate arts event was planned for the night of Thursday, July 16.
Then, shockingly, word came of the shootings at the Armed Forces Career Center and the Naval Reserve Center. Information trickled in, about the events, the shooter, the victims.
What to do? Should the event be canceled? Would it be disrespectful to continue it?
After much reflection, this event went on. Muted, without a doubt, by the news on people’s minds. But here is why it was the right decision.
The arts are famous for their power to heal. But they also have the power to defy, to spit in terror’s eye. They can say, “We are free. And you will not take that away from us.”
Some time ago, the New York Daily News reported, “After the World Trade Center tragedy, Broadway reeled. Then it rallied.
“Two days after the towers fell, then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani gave a press conference about rescue efforts at Ground Zero.
“Out of the blue, he declared: ‘The best thing you can do for our city is take in a Broadway show.’
“Ears pricked up. In a short but clear statement, the notion that ‘The show must go on’ went beyond showbiz to represent the Big Apple.”
Shira Schoenberg, writing on the website masslive.com about the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, quoted Dr. Terence Keane, director of the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder’s behavioral science unit: “On a communal level, art can capture a community’s reaction to trauma in a way that helps people process it.
“For individuals, art can help people honestly express and deal with their emotional responses, while helping them bind with their communities and look to the future in ways that can be quite healing.”
An event such as a seemingly normal young man deciding to murder people out of some deranged idea that it’s his deity’s will confounds people. The common impulse is to want to do something. Some came together in a community prayer service. Some rode motorcycles and flew flags.
And some, artists, sang and painted and entertained. Not in any way to make light of the loss of brave men and the tragedy imposed on their families, the city and the nation; indeed, just the opposite.
This is our way of honoring the sacrifices they made so that we continue to have the power to create, and by our creations, show that those who seek to intimidate all of us will not win. We will not cower in our homes. We will not stop making beauty and laughter. We are an essential part of the human spirit, we are life, not death, and you will not win.”
Note: The Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, Inc. has established the 7-16 Freedom Fund to cover college scholarships and educational expenses for spouses and children of the affected families.
Contributions to the 7-16 Freedom Fund can be made to 1270 Market St., Chattanooga, TN 37402. Please write “7-16 Freedom Fund” on the memo line of the check. An online donation page will be available by Friday, July 24.