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Chautauqua's Heart


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The Day Hate Came to Chautauqua

8/13/2022 1:47 pm


12:43 PM. Friday, August 12, 2022.  Lockdown.

Many days in Chautauqua's long history will live in memory.  Today will be one of those.  As with other significant events in our lives, there will be a before and after. Yesterday marked all the days before violence came to Chautauqua.  In all the days after, we will know what it felt like to see evil and hatred intrude upon our space, our home, our peace.


As my colleagues and I sat together in the front room of Alumni Hall, our minds were muddled with questions:  What should we be doing? Is there anything we're forgetting about?  How can I help those I am sheltered with?  How is everyone really doing under the surface?  What's going on out there?


One of us lives near the Tops Market in Buffalo - another place where evil brutally raised its head just a few short months ago.  Old wounds, recently begun to heal, opened up.

Another was sitting in the front row of the Amp when Mr. Rushdie was attacked.  Although we offered everything at our disposal to reassure her, her thoughts were on getting home to a familiar, solid place of comfort.  She attempted to get there but was turned back at the gate, told no one was allowed to leave.  She came back to us and, though a poor substitute, we did our best to console.

One bustled around, making sure everyone had all the comforts they needed - food, water, restrooms, coffee, tea, phone chargers, books to read - all the while wondering how Sony, who was on stage introducing Mr. Rushdie when he was attacked, was holding up.  Lifting prayers for everyone, over and over.


And all of us tried to avoid thinking the worst, while hoping for the best - that Mr. Rushdie and Mr. Reese would be fine.


Checking our phones.  Checking our emails.  Reassuring family and friends we were safe.  Reassuring each other everything would be okay.  Looking for some shred of normalcy in what was supposed to be a routine Friday.  Desperate to hear good news.  Pretending to work while our thoughts were elsewhere.

When lockdown ended, my husband came to pick me up.  He couldn't get past the Main Gate, so I walked, pulling my luggage-filled wagon behind me, to meet him there.  I didn't realize how emotionally drained I was until I saw him standing in the parking lot.  I leaned into his shoulder and let the tears come, trying to make sense of what happened, worried about everyone's well-being as we scattered to our homes for the weekend.

Last night, from the comfort of my living room, I watched the Vigil Service in the Hall of Philosophy.  Michael Hill reminded us that our place in the world is to keep holding conversations.  We need to meet each other in commonality, peace, and kindness.  He is right, of course.

And so, today, I will rest.  Tomorrow, I will pick up my shield and go back out into the world to do what I can for peace.  My Chautauqua friends, colleagues, and I will stand shoulder-to shoulder and we will talk, and we will show grace, and we will pray that this kind of evil never comes here again.






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