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.

17 thoughts on “Memory of 9/11

  1. I’m moved by what you write here, Quinn. Our pastor was saying at church yesterday that he doesn’t think we have become “better” after what happened back in 2001, and you put into words what went wrong: that we started making decisions based on fear, both on a national/international scale, and on a more personal scale. I remember how unified and strong and positive our nation felt in the immediate wake of the attacks, and somehow that all just crumbled away in the decade that has followed. Your artwork is a moving tribute to the changed perspective of those immediately impacted by the event…as you say, paper that once seemed significant was made immediately insignificant in the attacks. But paper that might have seemed insignificant was made significant in your art!

  2. Remarkable response to tragedy. I see those papers, see them drifting down, once so important, now useless, and I want to assess what I am doing and decide what is drifting paper and what will remain important, no matter what happens.

    The paper art is amazing. Very moving.

  3. I knew when I signed up for the RAW, that you were my kind of person. I am so honored to have someone like you, not only an artisit, a coach, but a human being. I really like what you have posted here and am deeply touched. I was not at either one of the sites, nor did I have a friend or loved one lossed buy it, but I will admit I was glued to the TV and cried over all that has happened. I still cry to this day when it all is brought up, the stories that are relived, the scenes that are replayed. I know we will never forget, but I think it wouldn’t hurt for us to ask ourselves for a minute or moment, is what I am doing at this precise moment, too important to just stop and turn to someone, a stranger, a person in uniform, and say to them…”you do matter, God Bless you”. So to all ready, esepcially you..Quinn, thank you for your time, your perspective, YOU do matter and God Bless You. Have a great day and TFS.

    • Your questions are excellent, b4. We could all cry all the time, if we let ourselves. But asking ourselves some questions and getting into mindful action is a good solution. Thanks for your kind comments. I appreciate them so very much. I’m glad you signed up for the class, too.

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