On September 11, 2002, a juried art exhibit opened at the Museum of the City of New York–a shared project of the museum and the New York University Child Study Center. It was titled “The Day Our World Changed: Children’s Art of 9/11.”
As our country marks the ninth anniversary of this tragic day, I thought it best to enlist the help of children in remembering and reflecting on what Americans experienced, individually and collectively, on 9/11/2001.
I searched far and wide to locate a copy of a book containing artwork from this exhibit–eventually finding a single copy at a Phoenix library. I’m going to spend much of the day with the 75 works of art featured in the book, also titled “The Day Our World Changed: Children’s Art of 9/11.”
Hundreds of children ages 5 to 18 submitted artwork for consideration, and works not included in the original exhibit and book were featured for a time in an online collection. The book, authored by Robin F. Goodman, Ph.D., and Andrea Henderson Fahnestock, is still available through the museum’s online gift shop.
“The Day Our World Changed” is “dedicated to the children of the New York area, but most especially those who lost a parent on 9/11.” Every piece of art submitted was created by a child from the New York area.
One depicts gray skyscrapers against a stark black background with REMEMBER written along the top in bold yellow letters. A part of the skyline is missing. Another shows a mother and young son from behind as they hold hands and stare at burning towers along the horizon. Another features two grey towers, each with a beautiful blue eye weeping red tears.
“From the hundreds of artworks submitted for this project,” writes Goodman, “some common themes emerged.” These themes include the actual attack (shock, anger), the city in mourning (sadness, fear), heroes and helpers (compassion, cooperation), memories and tributes (longing and honoring), and hope and renewal (symbols, patriotism).
Some are narrative, observes Goodman, while others are dramatic. All are a testament to children’s empathy and resiliency. “The children’s art makes clear that there is no right or wrong way to feel,” writes Goodman. “We want children to know that their voices are important and that art is an extraordinary way to give voice to concerns.”
Today as we remember and reflect on 9/11, may the children of the world inspire us to hope rather than hate.
Turn down the noise. Transform cynicism to service. Gather your crayons–and the ones you love.
We have a future to color.
Update: A collection of these works will be exhibited at the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum in lower Manhattan, which is scheduled to open to the public on 9/12/11.