The Art of 9-11
On the morning of September 11, shortly after terrorist
attacks killed more than three thousand Americans and destroyed the World
Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon, Elizabeth Mullins heard this reaction
from her 4-year old…
“…she came to me and said, ‘Mommy I’m going to go beat those guys up that did
Mullins knew she had to find a more realistic, and creative, way for Hayley
to deal with the disaster.
“I realized then that I had to come up with some way for her to do something that
would make her feel better. So we sat down and did some artwork and some cards.”
When Elizabeth saw that her daughter’s creativeness did indeed make
Hayley feel better, she started speaking to other parents and teachers,
counselors, and administrators. Between them, they came up with the
idea of putting a collection together that would highlight how some
children interpreted the attacks, while at the same time, determining ways
they could help, whether by artwork, poetry or prayer.
And thus, the seed was planted.
The Birmingham Museum of Art is displaying the works of many of the
school-age children from all over the Birmingham area. The exhibit, titled,
‘September 11, 2001: A Child’s Response’ features more than 200
pieces by children of all faith, including Christian, Jew or Muslim.
With a couple of markers, 9-year old Trevor Sutton, who attends Advent
School, drew a big red heart being attacked on either side by black
airplanes. He says the darker colors represent what’s bad.
“It was the first thing that came to me, because the planes broke the heart
of America. I was thinking, how many lives were lost. And how many children
don’t have any moms and dads now.”
Meanwhile, Luverne Gamble, a senior at Carver High School wanted the
American flag to be prevalent in his picture. It takes up most of it. Dark
gray shadows that appear to be the burning twin towers are in the
foreground. As is Lady Liberty. Who, according to Luverne, is crying tears
“The reason I did that is because when they attacked American, they hurt
America, and all the people and all the loved ones that was lost. That hurt
America. So, I put her in there crying, but then I was trying to say that
justice will be served no matter what.”
…and he may have a role to play in that justice. Luverne is 17, and he
says he’s concerned about being drafted to fight the war on terrorism.
In all of the works, there are a couple of common themes: sorrow and
Not only have pictures been drawn, by using markers, crayons or paint,
but there are models too. Some made of clay, most of them simple. But
one that sticks out is eerily true to life: It is the World Trade Center
complex being attacked, the wings and tail of a model airplane are sticking
out of each of the twin towers. The work is exquisitely detailed, with toy
cars at the base of the slim cardboard buildings, tiny plastic people
running for cover, and even orange-colored cotton balls to signify the
immense explosions when the planes hit.
“…that moment of impact we’ve seen over and over.”
But Gail Andrews-Trachsel, the director of the museum, says this type of
expression, whether true-to-life or abstract releases some of the fear, the
ambiguity or even the confusion from inside.
“It really does. Making art offers even more solace, whether it’s painting,
writing, playing an instrument, whatever it might be, I think it does help
us not only obviously, on one level, express our feelings, but come to
really understand how we feel.”
The Birmingham Museum of Art exhibit ended October 20.