In times of emotional unrest, children often express themselves through art. Taped to firehouse and police station windows, tacked inside respite centers and ornamenting fences at the World Trade Center site, drawings and d paintings created by this generation of youthful witnesses became a familiar sight throughout New York City in the aftermath of 9/11. Many children were starting their school day on September 11, 2001, experiencing the breaking news with their teachers and fellow classmates. The shock was heightened by concern for the safety of children’s family members who worked in the World Trade Center or sponded with the uniformed rescue services converging at the disaster scene.
In the late fall of 2001, New York University’s Child Study Center embarked on an ambitious project to study children's artwork triggered by the events of 9/11, by soliciting examples of their individual and collective creative responses. The responses culminated in a book - The Day Our World Changed: Children's Art of 9/11 (Robin F. Goodman and Andrea Fahnestock, 2002) - and into a jury-selected exhibition of the same title which debuted at the Museum of the City of New York on the first anniversary of the attacks. Subsequently, the exhibition toured nationally to other sites.
The 9/11 Memorial Museum recently acquired 56 of the 83 artworks featured in this critically acclaimed initiative. The participants - mostly young New Yorkers between the ages of 5 -18 – drew from their eyewitness experiences and imagery impressed on them by the media to produce scenes of violence, destruction, bravery, hope and resilience. Simultaneously troubling and touching, the collection form a distinctive, time-stamped record of the wide-ranging impact of September 11th on the nation's youth and an early barometer of how they tried to make sense of a world that felt altered in the aftermath. We are grateful to the New York University Child Study Center for facilitating this important collection.