2,753 Empty Chairs Honor 9/11 Victims at Bryant Park

By Jill Colvin on September 10, 2011 11:42am 

Chairs fill the lawn at Bryant Park to represent the victims of 9/11. The park also erected a similar memorial for the first anniversary of the tragedy.
Chairs fill the lawn at Bryant Park to represent the victims of 9/11. The park also erected a similar memorial for the first anniversary of the tragedy.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

MIDTOWN — Bryant Park’s normally bustling lawn was transformed into a solemn memorial Friday ahead of the 10th Anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

Midtown office workers looking for a place to soak up the sun instead found the lawn lined with 2,753 empty chairs facing south toward the fallen towers — one to honor each person who died in the attacks.

“It’s almost eerie,” said Matt Caruso, 24, as he stared out across the chairs, standing like gravestones, row by row. “You don’t realize how many people 2,700 is until you look at the chairs and see it fills the entire lawn.”

The Staten Island native was just 14 years old when the towers fell, and he saw the smoke rising across the river as he drove home from school.

“I can’t believe it’s been so long,” he said. “It almost feels like it’s surreal.”

Long Island native Tara Powers was still in elementary school when the attacks occurred. Her father worked just five blocks from the Twin Towers but happened to be away from Manhattan that day.

Powers, now 23, said the memorial was a powerful reminder of the loss that struck every member of her generation — not just those from New York.

“It really drives home the point,” she said of the exhibit, which echoes the park’s memorial on the first anniversary of the attacks.

As part of Bryant Park’s commemoration, people are also being invited to share their memories of 9/11 as part of a performance art project called “Collective Memory” by artist Sheryl Oring.

Volunteers with vintage black typewriters began collecting answers to the question, “What would you like the world to remember about 9/11?”

The answers, which are being typed on small sheets of white paper, will be used in an exhibition that will travel to colleges throughout the country, according to the Bryant Park Corporation.

Courtney Richter, one of the typist volunteers, said that many were sharing their experiences of 9/11, describing where they were and how they felt that day. Some celebrated the unity that followed that attacks, while others took a more critical tone about the events that followed.

“I wish we could have used it as an opportunity to be peace-makers instead of war-makers,” one wrote.

Baj Lowry Battle, 52, visiting from Arizona — who stumbled on the exhibit while walking through the park — responded with a question about the tragedy that day.

“What do we gain from violence and hate?” she asked. “What do we lose?”

Battle said she loved the idea of the exhibit and is interested to see what others say.

“I think that there’s power in collected thoughts," she said.

Powers, on the other hand, decided to share something she thought others might not know: how much the world changed that day.

“There’s an entire generation of young adults for whom the world will never feel safe again,” she dictated to the typist.

Powers said the recent threats of another terrorist attack have given her pause and made her wonder about the people just like who would have been sitting at Bryant Park on their lunch breaks that day.

“The idea of a terrorist threat lurking in the back of my mind kind of put me in that state of mind,” she said.

The exhibit will remain on display through Sept. 11. Those who want to contribute to Collective Memory can do so on the Upper Terrace from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

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