Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2011

Having participated in the exhibition "Discrepancy:  living between war and peace" now showing at the Napa Valley Museum, and having done so much research on the people who fell from the World Trade Center, I feel very connected to all that is being done to mark the anniversary.  I just watched (on dvr) a special pre-game celebration of the 2001 Baseball World Series before tonight's Diamondbacks game with almost the entire team coming back to our ballpark.  Our old pitchers, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, threw out the first pitch.  It seems like the antithesis to all the pain and sadness, to remember how happy and surprised we were to win such an impossible feat at such an emotional time.
 As good as those memories are, it is still so sad.  The sadness is staying with me because I learned recently that our soldiers who are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, don't understand how much the American people support and respect them.  My sister, Nancy Willis, who conceived and curated the exhibition, took a group of veterans from the Pathway Home program through the show where they could see how all the artists expressed their individual points of view about the events of that time.   Pathway Home is one of the rare places where soldiers coming home the war can go to get help with post traumatic stress.  One of the therapeutic art projects in the program is the creation of masks, where they paint what they feel people see of them on the outside and what they feel about themselves on the inside.  Some of the masks were hung in an installation as part of the Discrepancy exhibition.  There were quotes from the men on  the walls near where the masks were hung.  It was a very moving display.  Some of the veterans came anonymously to the opening, to see how their masks were viewed, how people reacted to them.   This is what Nancy later wrote about the private viewing she shared with the veterans from the program.

One of the most recurring comments from them was, they didn't think people actually cared. so this had a big impact on them. THat people would stop and read, and look. They felt seen and heard.  It is a BIG issue. Whether it is the mliitary environment, home, work or community, they are taught to tough it out and deal. not ask for help or show vulnerability.  They acknowledged that serves a soldier well for the job he is asked to do, but what about when they come back? For those with "invisible injuries"  like PTSD, they have little release, or tools to let go or expose their feelings. It is equated with weakness.  
One of the vets said to me, "when I walked around the room and read the artists statement, I understood, that we are not so far apart. We feel the same way. " and that was BIG revelation for him. Others agreed.  They said, they were a little anxious about what they were going to find when they came in. They expected something more political or divisive because that is what they see everywhere else. 
Before they left, I headed back to the masks to the one guy who had a mask in the show but hadn't said anything. I said, "what do you think?". he extended his hand, and said "Thank you, ma'am for doing this.  I really didn't think people cared.".   He said low morale is one of the leading causes of death when they are over there. I think they see the divisive left/right nature of the media as overall non support. As we walked out, he told me he had been in Iraq for 2 1/2 years. He told me the exact date of when he went in and when he got out, as if each day was counted and lasted an eternity. He said, he lost so many friends who were married with families.He said, " I only have my parents. they had wives and kids. it just isn't right.  I would trade my place today with any one of them if I could. ". I got a glimpse and only a glimpse of how it is different for each one of them. Collective injury, but specific personal trauma. 
There is something so wrong with a country that asks the men and women who volunteer, to fight for our country but ignore their needs and the damage that they endure, when they come home.  We just aren't doing enough.   Here is a link to the Pathway Home website.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Wendy, you said that so beautifully. Cathy


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