Queens students send ‘Messages to Ground Zero’

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On the surface, it seems like little in Queens’ classrooms has changed since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Emergency response plans have been reviewed and bolstered, a spokesman for the Board of Education said last week, and counseling services jave been made available to students in need of help after the deadly assault on the World Trade Center.

But if anything reveals the hearts and minds of Queens students in the year since collapse of the Twin Towers, it is the crayon, colored pencil, paint and written pieces of artwork they have produced in the past 12 months.

Now the Board of Education has joined forces with a New Hampshire publisher to catalogue the artistic endeavors of the city’s schoolchildren in a new book, “Messages to Ground Zero: Children Respond to September 11, 2001.”

While schools throughout the five boroughs have used artwork to help students deal with the Sept. 11 attacks, the September release of “Messages to Ground Zero” is the first collection of pictures and writings from students on the event.

The images and writings collected in the paperback book, which was compiled by Shelley Harwayne, superintendent of Manhattan’s School District 2, range from sophisticated pencil drawings and long poems to stick figures drawn in crayon. Students are identified in the book only by first name, grade and borough.

Poems and other writings from students in the city as well as letters sent to city students from around the world are also featured in the book, including a poem from a Queens sixth-grader.

“Everyone’s strong now and back on their feet/All the fallen heroes we’ll never forget/Who tried to save those who they never met,” a student named Jared wrote.

More than a dozen drawings from Queens students appear in the book, some dramatic and some expressing hope.

Lourdes, a Queens high school student, depicted the events of Sept. 11 with her color drawing of the smoke-filled Twin Towers, surrounded by a ball of flame. Ivonne, also a high school student in the borough, drew two clasped hands raised into a blue sky while Marta, another high school student in Queens, drew a picture of the city skyline outlined by the shape of a heart, with the American flag as a backdrop.

But high school students were not the only ones to capture the horrors of Sept. 11 in “Messages to Ground Zero.”

Catherine, a Queens third-grader, drew firefighters trying to douse flames in a tall building, while Samantha, a fifth-grader, showed firefighters and EMTs carrying out an injured person under an American flag.

“Messages to Ground Zero” captures a smattering of students’ artistic reflections on the Sept. 11 attacks and is a small sampling of the numerous art, music and writing projects undertaken at schools throughout the city after the attack.

Schools around Queens have used art to give students a means to deal with the attack, including MS 67 in Little Neck, where students took months creating a life-sized “Memorial Walkway” for the school’s lobby. The walkway was dedicated at a community ceremony complete with music and readings by students.

At Bayside’s PS 31, Principal Angela Monda led hundreds of students in a boisterous display of patriotism on the school’s playground just a few weeks after Sept. 11. The effort was part concert, with students singing a number of patriotic songs, and part rally with children waving American flags excitedly.

Other schools, like Douglaston’s PS 98, took a different approach to memorializing and interpreting the events of Sept. 11 by creating a memorial “Peace Garden.” St. Anastasia’s School in Douglaston helped collected supplies for rescue workers at Ground Zero, while other schools, like PS 162 in Bayside, created artwork to bring to firehouses and police stations.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:20 pm, October 10, 2011
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