A professional writer and educator in Fort Collins, CO, Ellissa J. Tivona, Ph.D., is also a member of the local Fort Collins Not In Our Town Alliance. In a recent contribution to Coloradoan.com, Tivona shares her thoughts being part of a community that stands together as one in times of need.
I've made a decision. On Sept. 11, 2012, instead of dredging up nightmare images of 9/11, I intend to remember where I was this year.
I enjoyed the good fortune of being in Fort Collins, a community that came together to pay tribute to all who suffered in the aftermath of those frightful events a decade ago, with songs and inspirational speeches of hope and healing.
Rabbis Ben Newman and Shoshana Leis joined Shakir Mohamed, outreach coordinator of the Fort Collins Islamic Center, Marc Salkin, Ph.D., minister of Foothills Unitarian Church, and several other faith community leaders on the pulpit of Plymouth Congregational Church. The audience gathered to listen, to offer prayers and to sing together. The strains of "peace, shalom, salaam" lifted to the rafters, and inspiring words from multiple faith traditions invited us to search our hearts, analyze our beliefs and discover our common humanity. But the power of this remembrance extended beyond words.
After the formal service, I visited with my friend and colleague Cheryl Beckett. Beckett serves as a community organizer for the local chapter of Not In Our Town Alliance, an organization that promotes direct action to prevent and respond to hate-based crimes in the local community. She noted: "When police and firefighters ran into the towers, they didn't stop to wonder the race or religion of the people they were helping. They worked together in the spirit of saving human beings."
She reminded me that the precepts of every major faith tradition call each of us to act in this same spirit - to recognize the spark of the divine in all our neighbors and respond accordingly. Beyond a one-day coming together to "remember," we are asked to manifest our beliefs in daily behavior. How do we take action to demonstrate the oneness that underlies our faith tradition?
Again I think of the example set in Fort Collins where opportunities to take action abound. For the past four years, community members have stepped forward to support BloodBonds, an annual blood drive sponsored by "faith communities committed to sharing blood, not shedding it." In the days following this year's 9/11 remembrance, the Garth Englund Blood Center graciously welcomed Christians, Jews, Muslims and others to make blood donations in the name of lasting peace among the children of Abraham, Hagar and Sarah. And what a turnout. Diane Apple of the Blood Center reports that this year alone more than 30 pints of blood were donated on behalf of BloodBonds.
And I'm not stopping there; I'm making plans to continue walking my talk. I intend to participate in the upcoming Faith-to-Faith conversation hosted by First United Methodist Church on Nov. 17. This fourth program of the series features Miroslav Volf, Ph.D., Yale professor, director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, and most notably a survivor of the deadly ethnic struggle between Christians and the then-Communist regime in the former Yugoslavia.
His personal journey of transformation and reconciliation with bitter enemies has made him among the most renowned authorities on healing across faith traditions. Once more, I will be in the audience. Again, I will listen deeply, and recommit to transcending the divisive voices in my own community. I have to believe that if one person can overcome a legacy of fear and violence, perhaps we all can.