Memory of a Freight Train for Hope

Memory of a Freight Train for Hope

Tonight, as I drove past the Detroit Institute of Arts, I remembered Yoko Ono’s Freight Train installed on a short stretch of railroad track on the museum’s front lawn in 2003. It was a 1930s German boxcar riddled with bullet holes signifying violence and murder.

I remembered how light flickered mysteriously through the bullet holes piercing the wounds and radiating beams like a searchlight up through a hole in the roof as if they were spirits escaping to heaven. Mesmerizing music composed by Yoko Ono emanated from inside the boxcar evoking the hope of the spirits trapped within.

I remembered how Charles and I were haunted by this thought-provoking sculpture. For Charles it stirred up memories of World War II and the Holocaust. And in this border city of Detroit it spoke to him of the issue of migration and the universal hope for a better life weighed against the uncertainty of what lies across borders.

I read that Yoko Ono said her sculpture was “inspired by the deaths of 18 Mexicans in 1987 who perished in a sealed freight car trying to enter the United States illegally. Ono titled it Freight Train and said she “chose the rail car as a symbol of human suffering during the ‘millennium of violence’ that just ended. Freight Train is a reminder of the violence and pain which people all over the world are suffering, and I hope, an inspiration to resist it.”

Sadly, sixteen years later, the memory of Freight Train echoes with the violence still going on all over the world today. Like Yoko Ono, I wish for healing and hope for peace in the decade ahead.

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