America after 9-11
Danuta Hutchins is just one of those people. They are the threads in the fabric of the community that run in a direction all their own. To me, they are the most priceless of resources - the thinkers, the slightly wild hares, the characters. They see things just a little differently, and they aren't afraid to say so. When you take time to see the world through their eyes, it's somehow a more bright and interesting place.
Some people might find it ironic that Danuta Hutchins, the leader of the "Remembering September Eleventh" program for Storm Lake, was neither born or raised as an American - and her native language isn't even that official one that the Iowa Legislature is so hyped about.
She still has the guttural accent of her homeland of Poland, but it was she who saw the need for the community of Storm Lake to make a very American statement with a show of art, writing, poetry, photography and other creative means of putting into perspective the changes in America in the year since the September 11 terrorist attacks.
And change we have. We will never again be quite so naive, and sadly, quite so innocent. We will never again take our families' safety quite so much for granted. We may never look at our flag again without the emotion welling up. We will never forget the victims, survivors, the courageous firefighters and police. We can never erase those horrible images we watched unfolding before our unbelieving eyes.
Has it been almost a year already? It doesn't seem possible.
Danuta Hutchins, with the eye of an artist and an educator herself, sees the need to do something, to say something, to do whatever we can to put it into perspective. I hope everyone with a drop of creative blood in their veins will take her up on the idea and enter something for the "Remembering September Eleventh" show in Storm Lake on the anniversary of the historic tragedy.
There's a lot still to get our arms around. As Americans, we are still struggling to understand the mentality of the suicide bomber, and of terrorism in general. It isn't supposed to happen to us, it isn't supposed to happen on our soil; but it has.
We are struggling to redefine our place in a world with troubles we are only just now coming to understand in a personal rather than a political way. We can't turn on the radio without hearing songs calling for revenge, yet the ways in which we have answered challenge in the past do not seem to be working against an enemy so faceless and unpredictable.
We too are working to put our newfound sense of patriotism into a sustainable, healthy package. We know there is more to it than little plastic flags stuck to our cars and pins poked into our lapels.
I think that the idea of Danuta Hutchins and her cohorts has a lot of merit. Expression is a crucial step toward healing and understanding. And on the first anniversary of a day that will forever be known as 9-1-1, Storm Lake artists and writers will take their stab at capturing the emotions that were felt for posterity. One day, perhaps generations from now, a junior high student will look them up for a school report, and will know that our hearts and minds were on those we lost, those we need to protect, and the children of the future.
The call for entries is open. Put your two cents worth in if you can. You need not be an accomplished painter or a published poet to share your thoughts.
Danuta Hutchins recalls the experience of growing up in war-torn Europe, of escaping the threat of Nazi aggression.
"To me, it is the single biggest tragedy I've lived through, even as a child going through war. Watching the tragedy unfold, I felt absolutely compelled to watch it, and my own childhood unraveled from my memory. I though that if this traumatizes me, how much trauma must these people directly involved be living through," Hutchins said.
"The nation should remember this, in the heart of
America we should remember, and if we do, all is not lost. We can learn from great tragedies as well as great victories."
And we can learn from the the unique characters in our midst, even when they weren't born as Americans, but live with the style, faith and caring to earn that title every day.