The Empty Chair

The Empty Chair, painting by Debbie Viola to honor all victims of terror attacks

As I began painting this (9/11/17), I tried to express the pit in my stomach that I felt, all these years later. I thought about the thousands of people that were murdered on September 11, and all the empty chairs they left behind — at the dinner table, and Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and family birthdays, and weddings, and barbecues, and special occasions and gatherings. The youngest victim was two years old. Look at all she has missed and could’ve been as an 18 year-old. It’s still unimaginable. Because of those heinous acts on that day, tens of thousands of family members and friends’ lives have changed forever as well. So much sadness and hate still exists in this world stemming from September 11. And the downward spiral seems to be continuing.

I still have hope that I don’t have to have second thoughts every time I head into New York City, or a concert or into any public place for that matter, and that five-year-olds will no longer be trained in their first week of school, how to hide in a closet and remain silent. Besides all the terrorism in our world, I have seen a sharp increase in hatred and intolerance of one’s neighbors. It seems to fester on Facebook and just spread. Do we not realize that our children are watching? That they will follow in our footsteps? What happened to lead by example? The world can never heal if all we do is bash people because they’re different from us, or have a different opinion than us. It’s not OK to teach our children that hate is OK.

So let’s try to turn this around so that my dream for peaceful co-existence can come true. Let’s be the change. Let’s tolerate each other even though you may think that your way is the right way and your opinion is the right one. Let’s be kind to our neighbor, whether we like them or not. They may have an empty chair in their home.

Let’s challenge each other to be better than we have been. Social media is a great platform to spread hate. How about spreading love instead. Share a story of kindness. Give a shout out to someone you admire. Instead of protesting about everything that’s wrong in the world, be the change and do something constructive to make it right. Volunteer somewhere, give your time, your energy, your resources. We have thousands of fellow Americans seriously affected by hurricanes and their lives will be devastated for a long, long time. Instead of sitting in our cozy houses on our fancy computers and perpetuating what is wrong in this world, we need to reach out to those that are seriously struggling just to survive. And I bet you that one act of kindness will make you feel so good about yourself that you will wish you would’ve started it sooner. Be The One. Be The Change. Let’s do this. Let’s fight hate with understanding and kindness. God Bless America and God Bless Us All. We must never forget September 11, 2001. ❤️❤️❤️