On this day across almost all social networks, countless people will be posting images, quotes, memes and memories highlighting their experiences with 9/11 and honoring those who died. One might say that social media could have changed the impact of the attacks in 2001, much like it does with natural disasters today. While social media allows us to instantly share a thought with thousands of people, it wasn’t long ago when communities took very different actions aiming for the same affect: expression and connection.
On that day in 2001, I remember touring a 1,000 year-old church in Siena, Italy and emerging from the dark to learn of the news back home from televisions inside tiny Italian coffee shops. Being outside the country, I was one of the many Americans feeling helpless and watching the devastation from afar. I wanted to do something. I wanted to connect. I wanted to be home. Luckily, I was traveling with a close friend who was studying sculpture at the time, so my “social” needs were met. At least, until I returned home.
After the new year in 2002, that artist (Stephen Shaheen) envisioned a large sculptural memorial that could be created on public land to involve the traumatized community and those who directly lost loved ones. The Memoria Project was formed through a community of like-minded citizens who needed to do something to process their emotions. They wanted to create something from the tragedy. I was honored to help with the effort.
Over the course of the summer, two 13-foot statues of marble were carved and nearly 3,000 names were engraved onto black granite boulders. Over 30 educational art programs and healing workshops took place surrounding the creation of the memorial.
Today we like, comment, share and re-tweet in much the same way. We create online elements to process our thoughts and feelings. Social media is about community connections and shared experiences. They grow and thrive when people create discussions, laugh or cry together. While not as physical as the process of sculpture, the end goal is the same: express your feelings, share with your trusted community and admire the connection you have with your fellow brothers and sisters. Today, if you can’t carve stone, please take a moment of your online time to honor those who were lost on 9/11/01.
The Memoria Project and a collection of images can also be found on Facebook HERE.