Rise of Freedom

Rise of Freedom: Reflection Stations Set Up on Streets to Let People Share 9/11 Experiences

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Where were you on 9/11? 

It's a question commonly heard these days as Americans prepare to mark the tenth anniversary of the terror attacks next month. For people who were anywhere the near the Twin Towers in New York, it's a particularly loaded question. 

"New Yorkers experienced 9/11 in such horrifying, frightening and sorrowful ways. People have really put those feelings at the very back burner of their souls," says Meriam Lobel, curator of the Tribute WTC Visitor Center near Ground Zero. 

The Tribute Center was created to tell the story of 9/11 through the words of those who survived it -- but that can be easier said than done. 

"We found that there are very, very, few New Yorkers who want to come in to a museum and tell us the stories of 9/11." 

So, the Tribute Center decided to give New Yorkers a creative outlet by bringing it to them. 

It set up "Reflection Collection" stations on the streets of lower Manhattan. At those tables, more than 200 people who may have otherwise never shared their experiences publicly, put them down on paper. 

Richard Sroczynski was working in a hospital near the World Trade Center on 9/11. 

"I worked through the first night. There were moments we were concerned that other buildings were going to come down and how were we going to evacuate all the people in the hospital," Sroczynski recalled. "I can still remember the smoke and the smell, and the flame coming up out of the ground." 

The handmade notes and drawings are part of a public art project that was put together by muralist Tova Snyder. Snyder hung up the cards inside bamboo frames in the "Garden of Remembrance" in Battery Park, a place where many New Yorkers ran to escape the collapse of the Twin Towers. 

"There's one that a young girl drew. She was 5 when it happened and she realized that kids can die. It just really touched me that someone at that age could already have to think about things like that," said Snyder. 

"This woman came down especially to be able to write something to say something," Snyder said pointing out another card. "Her final line that she wrote is, 'Now with reconstruction of one World Trade Center we finally see new life downtown and in our hearts." 

The mural displaying the handmade cards was on public display, outdoors, for one day only, but every piece of paper containing a personal story will remain part of the Tribute Center's archives for generations to come. 

"This is what happened to us. Not just to New York City, not to those three thousand people who were murdered. It happened to us," says Lee Ielpi a 9/11 first responder whose son, a firefighter, was killed. 

"It affected us. It affected our lifestyle,” says Ielpi. “It will affect our children. Things like this, bringing memory back, not forgetting, is vitally important."

The 9/11 Tenth Anniversary Reflections program was made possible thanks to the help of Feel The Music! and The Battery Park Conservancy.