“Why do you write about ‘it’?” She asked me. “You lost no one, you weren’t
down there on that day. So why do you continue to take a tragedy and use it for your ‘art’?” My friend feels
that we have become a nation focused on remembering and glorifying tragedies. She believes in moving on, not looking back.
However, moving on does not mean forgetting, turning our backs on this or any other major tragedy that involves
human lives. Moving on, in the most healthy sense, is to become unstuck from the past but continuing to be mindful of how
it impacts the present. Indeed, how can we “forget” that day when we continue to find human remains in what is
now a construction pit, when more lives are lost because a contaminated building catches fire, a building 9/11’s events
contaminated! The past always impacts the present, no mater how hard we try to ignore that fact.
The past also defines who we are. Just as the Nazi holocaust defined a generation and the following generation
of 20th century Jews, Hiroshima and Nagasaki changed how generations of Japanese view themselves and their nation, so has
9/11 altered our national identity. The who we were before that day we are not now regardless of where one lived or who one
lost or did not lose on that day.
Why is 9/11 and Ground Zero a part of my artistic reparatory? It’s not the past but the present that
inspires me. I am a reporter taking notes on the transformation of things past into the emotions of today because these powerful
emotions need to be expressed for healing to occur.
But finally, it’s about people: Those who were impacted, those who still try to cope, those whose
loved ones just vanished. I fear that some day they will hold a 9/11 anniversary ceremony and the chairs will be empty. Will
people then only read names inscribed upon walls? And what will those names mean to the reader? Who will understand
the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the long rebuilding of Ground Zero? History is kept alive through art, today becomes
yesterday and is immortalized and understood through art. That’s the only way to make sure those chairs will never be
(c) 2007 Leona M Seufert