To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, over 60 artists from around the world have created special pieces of art depicting their memory of 9/11. Ground Zero 360 is a traveling exhibition dedicated to remembering the victims of the 9-11 attacks and their surviving families. The exhibition was developed by Dublin native Nicola McClean, an artist and photojournalist working in New York on 9/11, and her husband, a Donegal native and retired NYPD Inspector Paul McCormack.
When asked to participate I was honored and wanted to make a piece that honored lives that were lost and also addressed my own experience of the events. Below is my story and piece that is part of this traveling exhibition.
I was 15 years old on September 11th, 2001. I watched the events unfold at my high school in North Dakota. I was left stunned, unable to emotionally take on what had happened, I became a sponge of news media intake. The days following the attacks were spent diligently watching the news and listening to adults talk about how this would define my generation. I watched as an observer. I felt a sense of guilt — I was an American whose life was only theoretically attacked, my life wasn’t put in danger, and I didn’t know anyone directly affected. Consequently, I harbored my anxiety, confusion, and share of collective trauma internally.
But in January, an event broke me; the news started reporting on an American journalist, Daniel Pearl who was taken captive in Pakistan. He was being held hostage, statements and video clips were released regarding his status over the course of nine days. During this time, I held adolescent hope, my thoughts on a broken record of ‘They have to let him go.’ I followed his story obsessively and read up on his life. He had a wife back in the states, and they were expecting a child. There was too much at stake to even consider an unhappy ending.
But on February 1, 2002 I came home, and my mom was focused on the TV, her face told me something had happened. As I turned my attention to the TV she said, ‘Daniel Pearl was killed’. I sat down on the corner of a cushioned bench in our living room and broke down, the hell of these events was made clear to me. To this day I relate to 9/11 as someone who was and wasn’t affected, but the ripple effects it has had on life as we know it are insurmountable from immigration laws, doors on cockpits, or lack of lockers at shopping malls. But those effects are alterations — in that life has carried on.
What is vile truth of 9/11 is the unfair and unchangeable loss of life. I intend this portrait serve as an intimate reminder of Daniel, one of many who risked and lost their lives since of the events of September 11th. A man who used his personal strengths to seek a pocket of truth for humanity.