After the horrific attacks on September 11, 2001, Dena Stewart and Stewart Stewart began a writing & art-making project called “Art from the Heart – An American Tapestry”.
Mid-January 2002, they flew to New York and began the workshop phase of their project with teenagers attending a junior high school near Ground Zero. In writing and with illustrations, the ethnically mixed group of students described their burning rage and desire to strike back at the terrorists. “… But I can’t, so instead I fight with my parents and siblings,” one boy wrote.
Next, they went to an industrial bakery plant in Queens where construction workers, electricians and carpenters who had worked at the Trade Center were being trained for a new profession. They were desperate to describe their grief. “I can’t sleep. When I close my eyes I see the faces of men I knew being crushed to death. When I finally drift off from exhaustion I wake up with a start, drenched in sweat.” The dark circles and bags etched under their eyes showed only a hint of their inner pain.
Their last New York workshop was in a Lower East Side Community Center with neighborhood people who witnessed the planes going into the buildings, they saw terrified people jump to their deaths, and watched helplessly as the buildings imploded.
Then, the Stewarts arranged for professional sewers from the International Ladies Garment Workers Union to craft an awesome eight by nine foot tapestry panel as the background for the montage of poignant stories and pictures that vividly portrayed the emotional, spiritual, physical and economic impact the events that began on September 11, 2001, had on New Yorkers.
When they returned to Miami, Jewish children attending a Hebrew school and Muslim children attending a Mosque school submitted their stories and pictures of how the terrorist attacks indirectly affected them; and a school in Colorado made the project a class activity. With these stories and pictures, a local seamstress crafted four additional eight by nine foot tapestry panels.
On September 11, 2002, the first anniversary of the terror attacks, the tapestry panels were displayed in the windows of the Donnell branch of the New York Public Library located directly across the street from the Museum of Modern Art, followed by an exhibit at the Children’s Museum in Washington, D.C.
September 11, 2013 — the United States is still vulnerable and the horror of that day is still vividly etched in the American psyche.