Art Project Helps Downtown Reflect on 9/11 Anniversary

By Julie Shapiro on July 24, 2011 5:40am 

BATTERY PARK CITY — The plastic squares are only a few inches tall, but they contain 10 years of memories, pain and emotion.

One shows a plane plowing into the Twin Towers, ringed in smoke, fire and falling stick-figure bodies. Beneath the scene, in a child's careful print, are three words: "Never give up."

Another shows simply the before and after — the familiar skyscrapers that once anchored a community, and the mounds of rubble they became.

These remembrances, collected from Downtown residents, workers and visitors over the past month, are part of "9/11 Tenth Anniversary Reflections," a public art project designed to help New Yorkers come to terms with what they have seen and felt over the past 10 years.

"It's hard for people to stop and think about their experiences that day," said Meriam Lobel, curator at the Tribute WTC Visitor Center, one of the project's sponsors. 

"But once people sit down and start writing something, they've expressed such deep emotions about the friends and colleagues they lost, their narrow escapes that day, their feelings of appreciation for those who helped them. It's the horror, but it's also about our response and resilience."

On Aug. 4, artist Tova Snyder, who is working with the Tribute Center and the 9/11 nonprofit Feel the Music, will string the reflections together and drape them across Battery Park's Gardens of Remembrance, which were planted after 9/11. The installation will return for several days on the week of the anniversary this fall.

On a recent afternoon, Snyder and Lobel collected reflections from passersby in the World Financial Center courtyard, drawing in many people who said they appreciated the chance to pause and remember.

Like many of those who picked up a small Mylar tile, Eva, 72, a Pearl Street resident, sat with a marker in her hand for a long moment before she began to write in flowing cursive about the isolation she felt in the days after the attack.

"I remember the fear and confusion and the inability to be helpful to anyone," she wrote.

"I remember the notices that were put up in various places of missing friends and family members and I wished I could have saved at least one life."

Eva, who did not give her last name, said it was important for New Yorkers to pull out their memories as the 10th anniversary approaches, even if they are painful.

"We've shelved it long enough," she said. "It's time to take it out and remember."

Among the more than 100 people who have participated in the project so far are a young woman who was in high school on 9/11. She wrote about her fear as she tried to get in touch with her parents. A Pakistani family wrote about their shock and dismay at the attack, and their wish for a more peaceful world.

Other reflections feature an American flag, a heart, a peace sign, an angel.

"It's been very hard for a lot of people," Snyder said as she watched residents work on their tiles in the World Financial Center. "But when we put it all together, it's going to show the resilience of the human spirit."

The Tribute Center and Feel the Music will collect reflections at TriBeCa's Pier 25 July 24 from 3 to 5 p.m. and at the 59 Maiden Lane plaza July 27 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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