Folk School Director Jan Davidson wrote this letter to Folk School students shortly after the events of 9/11/2001.
Even these cool green hills shook.
It was a typical, which is to say wonderful, week at the Folk School. The trees were golden, the weather, varied. As usual, there was a slice of the world here. One hundred and three people of several colors, many faiths, ages 18-87, about 55 percent female, residents of 23 states. About a third were from southern Appalachia, and a dozen live in the local neighborhood. Two came from foreign countries and one from an overseas American military base.
Typical Folk School crowd: house painters, farmers, librarians and teachers. Engineers, nuns and cooks, bulldozer operators, CPAs and nurses. Doctors, lawyers, cops and musicians. Some were retired and some job tired. Some were on vacation, some on a mission. Mostly both. Every one of them was an artist, though some doubted it when they first got to Brasstown.
There were veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and of many nameless private wars against disease, ignorance, intolerance, and meanness in this world. And they were victors in battles for their families, their friends, their communities. Some were people of vast experience, and some were the younger folks, just starting to take over the world and whatever it will be. They arrived here on Sunday. Monday at MorningSong, I joked my way through a history of the Folk School and tried to make the point that the purpose was “A School to Bring Folks Together.”
Then came Tuesday. What I first heard on September 11 was Kate DeLong and Faith Hall in the office saying a plane had hit a World Trade Tower. What a bizarre accident, I thought.
I went to the edge of Little Brasstown Creek. I was sitting on a stump with a legal pad, trying to compose a fundraising letter to you. Nearby, the car radio told of the second plane. Suddenly it was not just tragic, but sinister.
At lunch, I made an announcement to our students about the tragedy. The blessing was the old Folk School favorite, “What a goodly thing if all the people of the earth could live together in peace.”
There were anxious moments for every person at the School. People had loved ones – parents, children, co-workers – near all three of the crash sites. We had a much-needed prayer service on Wednesday led by our neighbor, Rev. Aud Brown, pastor of the Little Brasstown Baptist Church.
By Thursday afternoon, parents at the school learned that their children in service had been deployed. Before the weekly concert on Friday night, Sister Judy Yunker, a work-study student, led a candlelight vigil and reminded us not to return hate with hate. I had the honor of introducing the band. “You can’t let people like that stop people like this,” I said, and pointed at Fletcher Bright the fiddler and his band of Tennesseans. They hit into one of those old tunes that pick people up and move them through time and space. They played their hearts out for a crowd of people that really needed to hear some good old mountain music.
New York and Brasstown. The contrasts could hardly be greater, at least within this country. Little old Brasstown learned with the world about community in the stark beauty of New York trying to save its people. Many were beyond rescue, but in the attempt was rescued something else – a true, strong spirit.
The attacks on our urban brothers and sisters were attacks against us, too. The Folk School is about freedom, growth, creativity, love and life – targets of these terrorists. These are also people who have destroyed historic treasures, banned artistic expression, denied education to women, and executed people for playing music. No matter what in the world you call that, we’ve got to be on the other side.
The Folk School is about hope for the future and faith in the good. It is not a frill, it is a necessity. The Folk School must be here for you, when you need it and it must endure.
I have been so proud of the employees, the students, and the friends who have pulled together. The “School to Bring Folks Together,” is working its magic during these difficult times.
Jan Davidson, Director
Keather Gougler is the Marketing & Communications Director at the John C. Campbell Folk School.