9/11/01 was a dark day for all of us who lived through it, even though it seemed that the sun shined everywhere across the country that day.
I was working at a children’s mental health center as a counselor and supervisor. I spent the day with colleagues, watching the lobby TV as the towers fell. No clients kept their appointment that day, which was a good thing, because the counselors were as distraught as everyone else.
I had not yet started signing my artwork with “BZTAT”, but I had already become known for painting bright, cheerful paintings of dogs and cats. After 9/11, that changed.
A darker and more heavy emotion appeared in my work, beginning with this drawing that I did on that dark day. I knew the impact the WTC disaster would have on our country’s youth – not just because of their own trauma, but because of their reaction to the actions of the adults around them.
I was not wrong. Children raised in the post 9-11 era have grown up in an era marked by knee-jerk reactivity and fear. Our politics and public policy seem to be more about anger and revenge than they reflect reason and thoughtful action. It worries me.
Now that 10 years have passed, I am sharing this drawing for the first time. I don’t know why I never shared it before. I just didn’t.
It took me several weeks before I could create after drawing this picture on 9-11. When I did start creating again, I had returned to my brand of more resilient work, but I was changed. A series of darker, more expressive collages came a year or two later, and they may be my best work ever.
I did not want to stay in that place of darkness and heavy emotion, though. And thank God I didn’t. I later moved on, but a lingering sense of purpose remained.
I will forever be changed, just like everyone else on that dark day. Changed, but not daunted.
The darkness brings a new fervor to the need to bring light to the world.
Prayer for September 11, 2001 (written in my journal 0n 9/11/01)
Today a part of my land
And a part of my people
Was reduced to a cloud of
Smoke, rubble and dust.
As the pain and dust linger,
Please help me to join hands
In peace, not rage,
With other spirits
Who seek to rise above.