This story is part of the "The Impact of 9/12," series, which focuses on those who were inspired to give back after the tragedies of September 11, 2001.
When Laura Orvin noticed her students’ hopes and fears seeping into their paintings after 9/11, she turned the opportunity into a school-wide project. The 300 South Carolina kids crafted a 3-foot-tall banner filled with hopeful messages. Then, she shipped it off to Mayor Giuliani’s office.
Orvin didn’t hear back for six years.
“I wanted to show our love, support and patriotism,” the Porter-Gaud School teacher told the Huffington Post. “I had the children…draw what they love most about America—the positive things that would let people in New York know we love them.
The project was as much an exercise in supporting those directly affected by September 11, as it was a chance for students to express their grief. Some kids wrote letters to the responders. Others drew pictures of the Statue of Liberty and the American flag. Quite a few painted hearts all along the canvas.
George Slotin, who was a Porter-Gaud fourth grader when the World Trade Center was attacked in 2001, was one of the students who benefitted from contributing to the project.
“Looking at 9/11 through art, seeing 9/11 through art project, made it a lot easier,” remarked Slotin. “I could understand it better.”
Though Orvin didn’t initially hear back from the mayor’s office, she was pleased with the way the group effort had helped the students come to terms with the tragedy.
“Instead of just dwelling on images they were seeing on television, this was a positive way to show that America is strong,” Orvin noted. “We will survive this, we will get through this.”
But, when she got the call in 2008 that the 9/11 Memorial & Museum would be featuring the canvas, she was thrilled.
The banner went through a bit of an odyssey before it nabbed the coveted wall space at the memorial.
After the canvas arrived to the mayor’s office, it made its way down to Pier 94, to hang in the facility that served as a refuge for September 11 victims. Once the facility closed, the banner was rolled up and stored in a closet until an electrician uncovered it six years later. Aware that the museum was looking for such art pieces, he passed it along through a number of hands before it hit Adina Langer’s, the museum’s exhibition manager.
Not only will the banner serve as historic testimony in the museum, it was published in the book “Art For Heart,” a compilation of paintings, drawings and poems that children created in the aftermath of September 11 to help cope with the tragedies.
“Our little banner hopefully brought some joy,” Orvin offered.
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