Memory of 9/11

When TV shows us images of September 11, 2001, we see New York. It’s where 3,000 people died. It’s where the iconic towers of American commerce were attacked. But there were two more places that figured in the 9/11 attacks–Washington, D.C. and a field in Pennsylvania where, for the bravery of airplane passengers, the third plane did not reach its target.

I lived in Washington, D.C. in 2001, and I remember that rare and brilliant blue day. I can’t forget the people scattered across the lawn of the Pentagon, I can’t forget the images on TV, or people jumping from the towers because choosing their death was better than burning to death.

And I remember papers. Papers floating down from the sky. Important papers. Unimportant papers. Papers that the day before had held contracts, employment records, financial records. In a second, they were not important anymore. There was no one to need them, no one to ask about them.

Papers, light and dark. © Quinn McDonald 2011

That day changed our country forever. We began to make decisions based on fear. We became suspicious and frightened, We were happy to give up freedoms for safety, but no one could make us safe from our own fear. Our President told us to go back to shopping.  Shopping. It was a defining moment. For a few weeks after 9/11, people cared more, came together more, believed more. And then we changed back to consumers. Frightened consumers. I can’t bear to talk about it much, but I spent a day in the studio working on art. It’s better than shopping for me.

I keep seeing those drifting paper in my nightmares. So I cut out hundreds of squares of paper. I piled them up and stacks and stitched them to watercolor paper. There are two pieces–two contrasts.

Hand-stitched gampi, text block, washi and handmade papers.

One is made of pieces of white paper, stitched with ivory waxed linen. I chose different shades of white to represent the passing of time, the aging of paper.

Dark papers: mulberry paper, text, book pages, washi papers stitched with black pearl cotton.

The second piece is dark. It represents the people who will never come back for their papers, those who will never need the loan, the passport. It represents everything in a life we can lose so easily. It represents who we are and who we can be.

–Quinn McDonald still believes in the innate goodness of people. She won’t give it up, no matter how many papers fall from the sky. She became a life coach after 9/11 and finds the work far more rewarding than shopping.