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War and Peace
Rebecca Hoffberger

We had already spent nearly a year preparing our American Visionary Art Museum's seventh annual mega-exhibition, "The Art of War and Peace: Toward an End to Hatred." Our galleries were all emptied of the previous show and we had already uncrated the new "War and Peace" works as living artistic testimony created by civilians and soldiers from more than 100 years of wars.

On September 10, 2001, I experienced a depression greater than any I had known to date, so palpable that all I could do was drag myself home from work at the museum and meditate and sleep. I'm almost embarrassed to say that when the horror of the next morning's news hit, it came almost as a release, a lightening of the unbearable tension I had been feeling that spelled cataclysm of some unknown measure to come.

What a strange set of simultaneous impressions from that morning of 9/11: 1) That we were at war on our own soil and in a building where I had friends who worked and had once eaten dinner. 2) The stunning accuracy of the terrorists in bringing three of the world's most powerful buildings to their knees in just a few hours with no real high-tech gizmos. 3) Perhaps most moving of all was watching New Yorkers consistently stopping to help one another in September 11th's explosive events—no pushing, no pulling, and so many acts of bravery. Can anyone ever forget those people who joined hands to console one another as they jumped to their deaths to escape unbearable heat?

And this we must remember, was so in contrast to when nuns were caught looting in the last big New York City blackout. It was as if in the midst of such barbaric terrorism, there was this grace of supreme acts of loving kindness. It made you proud to be American and wish that you, too, were a New Yorker.

Some of our museum staff asked if they could go home, not knowing if bombs would fall on Baltimore, but all of us felt a great blessing that our upcoming exhibition might be able to do some real good on the heels of such insanity, creating a forum for the public to both grieve and to feel hopeful that peace and stability do indeed follow calamitous times. We read Rumi and Islamic peace philosophy at the opening dedication.
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