I woke up to the start of this long, sad weekend of 9-11 memorials to hear a radio host interviewing a network anchor about how the well-known broadcaster was able to keep his emotions in check through an excruciating day on live TV on September 11, 2001. An acceptable snippet, a potentially interesting way to recall one angle of that world-changing day.
Yet the conversation irritated me. It felt like inconsequential pitter-patter. It missed the point. It made me think how detached the last decade has allowed us to become from the life altering horror of 9-11 for the 3,000 families who lost loved ones, or for those who escaped, or for the thousands who were in the vicinity of the towers, amid raining ash, swirling paper and falling bodies.
And then I remembered this powerful drawing and these heartbreaking words by Veronica Lawlor, the only artist to draw, on the spot, from the ground, the 9-11 attacks. Her work made me feel better and turned my thoughts to the millions of people who honor the dead and their loved ones in a more authentic way.
Here are the words Lawlor attached to the sketch when she posted it in 2009:
“Remembering September 11th, 2001. As I listen to the reading of the names of the victims at Ground Zero this morning, my mind goes to one woman that I will never forget. I was drawing the events that day, trying to make sense of what was going on. Both towers of the World Trade Center had fallen and the streets of downtown Manhattan were filled with lost, frightened and confused people. I saw a mother and her child sitting on the stoop of their building, and heard the mother tell the young child that they would wait there for Daddy to come home. I don’t know the woman, I never saw her again, but remembering her right now makes me cry. So many lives were altered that day, and it can be easy to put the experience into a file called “9/11″ and forget the moments like this that were so, so hard to bear. Seeing the faces of all the people observing a moment of silence at Ground Zero this morning brings it all back, sharp as a knife. I can only hope that Daddy came home to his family that day, and pray for all those people who never did return.” -Veronica Lawlor
All her 9-11 reportage still brings a lump to my throat, and embodies what we should be thinking about this weekend: The dreadful lives of the moms, dads, kids, close friends and relatives of those who died. Their horrors are more eternally life altering than the shock we experienced as a culture that evil day.
Veronica Lawlor’s work is featured in the Newseum, the Washington DC museum of journalism. Her 9-11 drawings are now published in a book titled, September 11, 2001: Words and Pictures. A good interview with Veronica Lawlor appears here