Somber reflection, art, dance commemorate 9/11

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People watch the Tribute in Light installation illuminated over lower Manhattan as seen from Brooklyn, marking the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York City.
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

NEW YORK – On the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, some parts of New York City were sequestered into pockets of somber reflection of that terrible day when terror came screaming from the skies – the effect of which is now a permanent shroud of fear around the world of death striking from nowhere on a clear, beautiful, summer day, with the chill and smell of fall in the air.

Even as the city bustled with daily life, tourists laughed and jockeyed for positions to take photographs, office workers and students went about their business, politicians, police officers, and relatives of the 2,983 people killed on that fateful day gathered at Ground Zero, to remember, commiserate, vow, to keep the city safe again from another debilitating terror attack.

Those 2,983 people were killed not just in the attacks on the World Trade Center. They included also victims of attacks at the Pentagon, and on Flight 93 when it crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The annual ritual of reading of names of the victims – which started at 8:46 a.m. to commemorate the first attack on the north tower, and altogether took around three hours and 40 minutes to render – was punctuated with the tolling of bells to mark highlights of that tumultuous day: when a plane crashed into south tower and later when the tower collapsed, the hit on Pentagon, crash of flight 93, and the fall of the north tower.

In the evening, just after sundown on Monday, two giant towers of light comprising of 88 searchlights positioned into two squares to represent the twin towers, rose four miles into the sky from the September 11 Memorial & Museum’s ‘Tribute in Light’ art installation.

Some people came up with a different, charitable idea to mourn the day, which also signify a day of resolve to stay strong against the evils of terrorism: volunteers gathered at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, and prepared meal packets for needy people.

President Donald Trump, in his speech, at Ground Zero, talked about the ongoing war against terror this millennium, with 7,000 Americans already having sacrificed their lives, since 9/11. He gave a stern warning to those who dare to commit atrocities against innocent people.

“We are making plain to these savage killers that there is no dark corner beyond our reach, no sanctuary anywhere on this very large earth,” he said. “Today as we stand on this hollowed ground we are reminded of the timeless truth that when America is united no force on earth can break us apart.”

Elsewhere in the city, artists bent their mind to commemorate 9/11.

Iranian American artist Shiva Ahmadi’s metal works at the Leila Heller Gallery in Chelsea district of Manhattan, was a grim reminder of the times we live in, where shrapnel could come as easily from collisions engineered from planes or cars, or one could be blown to smithereens from even pressure cookers filled with nails and other sharp objects from daily paraphernalia, by terrorists; spray death in all directions.

Ahmadi’s two works, part of an group exhibition ‘Grisaille’, until September 20th, comprise of two objects made from pressure cookers. On their outer surface are verses from the Quran etched in acid, which are recited by devout followers of Islam on their deathbed. There are holes blown in the pressure cookers. A closer look reveal innocuous – but deadly ‘weapons’ when used as a bomb – long nails, and other sharp objects. inside the hollow bed.

The scholar Talinn Grigor writes in her introduction to Ahmadi’s works: “Ahmadi’s painterly language transforms monkeys into despots, thrones into bigoted states, bubbles into bombs, paint into blood, and hospitality into global violence.”

Another exhibition, “Bravery & Sacrifice”, at John Jay College, has a series of paintings, sculpture and illustrations depicting the New York City Police department’s actions during 9/11. Reports said the works are from both the department’s headquarters and the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington. It will go on through the year, for four months.

At the Lincoln Center, a Discover India program was held by Viva Kultura, which, the organizers said, was to commemorate 9/11, to hope for peace in the world. A moment of silence was held before the commencement of cultural performances, by artists from 15 countries around the world, including an impressive dance troupe from Mumbai, Sankhya Dance Creations.

There were also displays of music, theatre, and martial arts.

(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: sujeet@newsindiatimes.com Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)