Up the stairs

This time last year, nothing had yet happened in New York. I’m thinking about that, and thinking — There are two ways to deal with the aftermath of such senseless violence and such evil. The first is to dwell on all we have lost, to focus endlessly on our pain and grief, and to weaken ourselves. We always have the choice to be victims. The second is to focus on all that remains, to focus on both anger and hope, and to make ourselves stronger. We always have the choice to be survivors.

On this day, I will light my candle for those lost, and I will remember, with anger and with hope — anger that good lives were lost, hope that in the midst of such darkness heroes arose. And knowledge that heroes walk around me — men and women who risk their lives daily in service to others, as well as those who do not know yet that they have the capacity to be heroes. And I hold in my heart the determination and the promise that if I am faced with such a situation, I will run up the stairs, not down. I will run to the front of the plane, not the back. I will die fighting, not die weeping. Because of me, if there is breath in me, someone else will live. Or fewer will die.

I will be no one’s victim.

America need be no one’s victim. We are a strong nation, and weeping does not become us. Evil came to us, but we survived, and we are stronger now. We have earned both our anger and our hope. And as a nation, too, we can run up the stairs, not down. Run to the front of the plane, not the back. We are a nation of survivors — the descendants of hardship and poverty, of revolutionary war and massive civil war and massive World Wars, of a Great Depression, of endless little disasters. Our citizens have arrived on our shores from concentration camps and torture in enemy hands, civil wars, blinding poverty, terrifying oppression, and they have built good lives here, for themselves and their children.

We are who we choose to be. I choose hope, and anger. And the image of men in heavy coats and yellow hats running up the stairs, not down.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

8 comments… add one
  • Liz Van Zandt Sep 20, 2002 @ 17:42

    I just finished your book "The Courage of Falcons." I like to think that we too have enough faith, love, and courage, to encompass the entirty of humanity. I try so hard to tell this to other people but so often it falls on hate filled hearts and souls. Everyone seems to be so busy focusing in on "revenge," that forgivness and healing falls to the wayside.

    We are all a part of a greater community which is that of humanity.

  • Jim Sep 16, 2002 @ 18:25

    Holly,

    Thank you. Simply, thank you.

    (for everything).

  • --KaraOwl Sep 16, 2002 @ 10:49

    Words matter. But words alone cannot change things. Words and deeds- ‘running upstairs, not down’ will change everything.

    Thank you, Holly, for reminding us that we CAN change things, just by looking at things a different way.

    I’m going to run upstairs, too.
    –KaraOwl

  • Lisa Sep 16, 2002 @ 3:39

    Hi Holly, I have read and enjoyed several of your books. They are often thoughtful of the human condition. It is good to know that there is a way to look at this occurence seeing where the glow of humanity has shone brightly and to know that their sacrifice has proven to us that it is possible to find this courage in all of us. It is true that we have come up often from adversity and are not to be measured by how easy our life is or looks but how we overcome it. May we always be brave, yet tolerant. May we explore the unknown fearlessly and discover new ways of understanding.

  • DWG Sep 11, 2002 @ 13:01

    Boy, I wish I had written this. (Of course, it’s not the first time I’ve said that about something you’ve done.)

    Today should indeed be a day of remembrance; not of our collective pain and tragedy and victimhood, but of those who climbed the stairs. From the passengers of Flight 93 to the members of FDNY’s Squad 1 to Welles Crowther, the stockbroker in the red bandana who saved dozens of people in the South tower before being buried in the rubble himself, we saw the worst in others bring out the best in us. As a nation, as individuals, we found our spirit, and it’s in better shape than the pain-and-fear-mongering media would have us believe.

    Something the best fiction teaches us, which can be found in Holly’s books in abundance, is that we’re often much stronger than we ever thought we could be. Thanks for so eloquently putting into words that which I’ve been thinking for the last year; instead of crying in the streets, you’re shouting from the rooftops, and we need much more of that.

  • K.R. Mercik Sep 11, 2002 @ 9:57

    This was really touching, Holly. I share your beliefs on this matter, and I applaud your words.

    As a member of the Armed Forces, I know how seldom people like me are praised for what we do. Your words are priceless. I salute those who have fallen on 9/11, and I salute those who showed themselves as heroes on that day. Lastly, I salute everyone I have taken oath to defend. Without you, we would be nothing.

    Here’s to remembrance! And here’s to the hope and anger that have allowed us to survive.

    Semper Fidelis.

  • Robert A. Sloan Sep 11, 2002 @ 8:55

    That is beautiful, Holly. It’s always been true of you, and it sings in every one of your books.

    Most of all, it sings in your books.

    Keep running upstairs, Holly.

    Those of us with pens do have much more of a lasting impact. When you wrote about concentration camps and political immigrants from all those other nations, all I could remember were the Russian writers who managed to complete novels in gulags. Sometimes it’s fingers that run, and lives can be saved with words.

    I met someone once whose life was saved by "When The Bough Breaks" — when it gets tough, remember that’s firefighting too.

    Thank you for the ebook. Thanks to you, this becomes "Never Forget." Its archives are a little richer.

    Robert and Ari >^..^<

  • Unreal Sep 11, 2002 @ 8:07

    Hope is something to look for in everything, it is even sadder that such an event has to happen before that is realised.

    I feel saddness for those that lost family and friends. I do not wish to remember 9/11 as the day thousands of nameless inocents lost their lives, I do not wish to be filled with anger or resentment. I wish to remember the deeds and lives of those that did die, I wish to celebrate their lives and their acheivements for each and every life is sacred.

    I am objected to anger due to my spiritual beliefs so i shall no more on the subject. Thank you holly for the tribute and the ability to leave one myself

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