I have the feeling that my grandchildren and great grandchildren will one day ask me, “Do you remember the attack on September 11th?” I hope I can describe to them my memories as clear as they are today. I was at Hollins University painting in the old studio above the mail office. The clear story windows were open and the room was cool and bright with wonderful even lighting. All the walls, pipes, and trim in the room were white. The concrete floor painted in gray but worn and marked by the inevitable paint drip in spots. I loved that space, filled with the smell of oil paint, gesso, and wood from the canvas stretchers. I was challenged by my professors in that room to explore my art, push myself. I’d spend hours and many a late night plugging away with my headphones and disk-man keeping me company. Yes, the disk-man dates me. I remember and still have the blue and white striped button down I wore over my clothes when painting. But have since tossed my faded light wash jeans. The Pair with tears and paint stains from many a creative project. There is no way I could fit into them today without creating one final tear that would bring end to their existence as pants.

This day was special, Professor Bill White was called into the corner to chat with another professor. His hair then was completely white, thick as all get out, and pulled back into a ponytail. His goatee matched the all white hair on his head. He was doing that beard stroking thing all guys with facial hair guys seem to do.  He always wore a smock while painting and that damn black fanny pack. Note to all professors; the fanny pack… not a good look. His black rimed glasses vintage looking. He looked serious as they spoke but that was not strange. They left the room and we kept working. I think he must have returned, left, and returned again about three times. Finally that last time he politely asked if we could all stop painting because he had something that he thought we should hear. He was to my left by the door. I stopped and looked on like everyone else in the room. He said, “The world trade center and pentagon had been hit and there was something very bad going on. The class would be excused. There is a TV on in the dance studio next door where we could see some of the coverage.” I don’t think I got at first. Some students left to go back to their dorms to call family and friends. I made my way out the door down the corridor to the dance studio. I remember while the painting studio felt cool and crisp. The light glowing behind the window curtains was more golden in the this room. They old tube style TV sat on a rolling cart with some fellow students sitting some standing near by. I stood and watched the news coverage. I think I did that thing humans do when they place their hand over then mouth unconscionably saying I couldn’t take it all in. There seem to be few times in history that a person can feel so completely that the world had changed, shifted, your reality so altered. At the same time that you were reeling you felt that billions of other people were feeling the same way. There are other smaller moments throughout the rest of the day and into the week that I still remember and I’m sure others feel the same way.

I always will remember painting that day, the atmosphere, the colors, and visuals. As cheesy as I find slogans that the media place on things the phrase, “Never forget,” seems fitting.

Advertisements