This nonfiction story was written by Warren about his experience during 9/11.
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The sand gritted in my teeth as I pulled my straw hat tight to my head to keep the wind from tearing it off and rolling it across the desert. The year was 1976. I was in Egypt for the summer as one of seventeen college instructors on a study grant. We were guest of the Egyptian government and on that hot and windy afternoon we were touring the monument of Abu Simbal on the Upper Nile.
I was standing in the shadows of four colossal figures of Ramses the Second sitting upon their thrones. The sandstone sculptures towered over me sixty seven feet into a hazy, sand colored sky. The base of the sculptures was taller than my head. I ran my hand lightly over the low carvings of hieroglyphics, all the while staring at the historical events that were so beautifully portrayed with skillful hands 1257 BCE. The low relief panel composed of a language that only a few Egyptian Archaeologists could decipher, but enough imagery to leave no doubt as to what happened over three thousand years ago. The “headlines” although carved in fine grain sandstone represented the brutal act of Ramses’ conquering army over his foreign enemies. The Pharaoh had his captives paraded before him, hundreds if not thousands, all with their right hands cut off to ensure that they would never fight again. That historic day is so far off in time that the only surviving record is this panel of sandstone, which weathers away a little with each wind storm until even it will only be another inexcusable experience in the tragic fabric of world events.
Time and memory erase the most unimaginable of human experiences, even the day of 9/11/2001. We are told we will never forget, but I have to count the years 2014 minus 2001; that’s 13 years ago. I remember when and where I was when 9/11 happened. I remember another tragic experience: the day President Kennedy was shot. I remember what I was doing but not the date or the year. I remember the T. V. coverage of the Helicopters picking up people off the top of the American Embassy hours before the fall of Vietnam but not anymore details. Living through the great depression and enduring World War II were my parents’ memories and now only a few of the old folks remember them. When we read terrible news, all we can do is frown and wonder what it was really like. We only remember for a generation or two.
September 11th, 2001 after breakfast I did something I seldom do, I turned on the Piano room T. V. in order to watch the morning news as I put on my socks and shoes. My still new bride Kitty walked past with a laundry basket on the way to the utility room in the garage. She shouted to me “What’s new?” My response was I think a small plane crashed into a building in New York. I finished pulling on my socks, looked down to slip on my shoes and lace them up when the announcer said something about smoke from a top floor of the world trade center, I yelled to Kitty to come take a look. A long distant camera shot focused on one of the two world trade towers, smoke was starting to boil near the top of Tower No. 1. confused and conflicting reports were coming in fast. It had only been minutes since the accident. Kitty sat down beside me. Minutes later we yelled and screamed as a second plane exploded into the second tower. We were being attacked and our world changed as it had never changed in our lifetimes.
9/11 from Sketch Book published in 2004
From the Sketch Book the photo of the 911 sketch.
I was watching the morning news in the piano room riveted to the T. V. The first plane had struck the World Trade Center. My friend Burl called asking me if I was drawing. I said I wasn’t but as soon as we got off the phone, I would be. I watched, as the world did, the unfolding events. In the horrible news, I drew and drew and drew.
That evening our friends, Bob and Ceale Kirkham, arrived for dinner as planned. It was a sad, strange evening. Bob: “We need to get a new flag; our old one is tattered. We need a new one.” Then Kitty began playing “America” on the piano. Almost tears- too sad – weeping – tired – too much T.V. El dia malo!
9/12 The next morning, I selected three 40” x 60” canvases and began to paint on all three as a painting of one. Listening heartsick to the continuous news coverage and using my sketches from the day before, I began to paint and paint. I produced a black and white painting, 5’ by 12’, completing it in one week. On the canvas, I painted my feelings about the atrocity.
Our world is over as we knew it, a new one is opening on the horizon and we proceed on the journey. Our nation has changed forever.
My painting “911” is not for sale but I will gift it to an organization that will permanently display the painting, helping us not to forget, but in time we will forget just like the sandstone wall of Ramses the II.
PLEASE ASSIST ME IN FINDING A PERMANENT PLACE TO DISPLAY MY 911 PAINTING.
Without consciously knowing, I probably reflected on Picasso’s Guernica.
Next week read Procession of Posters as Warren looks back over seven times painting featured posters for the Pecan Street Art Festival.