Theme memo blog. News, discussion and information about the National September 11 Memorial & Museum

Words once scrawled at ground zero deliver messages of hope


Local photographer, Helena V., captured 9/11 history during her visit to the World Trade Center site in 2006, during the 5th year anniversary of the attacks.  While walking around ground zero, she took photographs of messages left by passersby and visitors expressing their sorrow, support and hope. 

“As an artist, I think it is very important to document these visual voices because people are attempting to publicize their thoughts for others to read, think and learn,” Helena V. said.  “Since these words don't have a very long life span, because city crews clean up these expressions, I feel that it is my duty to document these words so I can exhibit and publish them for others to appreciate.”

Helena V. has been working in professional photography since 2007.  Her current project is a fine art photo concept titled “The Museum of Messages.”  This project, which began in 1999, she said, is a collection of “photographs of messages that people write in urban landscapes about the environment, love, politics, humor, fear, expression, loyalty and more.”  Some of the messages from the trade center site are part of this collection.

Helena V. has also lived in New York since 1999.

“After September 11, 2001, New York City was a completely different place,” she said.  “It was the first time in my life, for a short period of time, that I felt uncomfortable falling asleep in the Big Apple.  However, that sense did change, and I feel that we have recovered from that experience as a stronger and bolder metropolis.”

Those same sentiments are expressed in many of the messages Helena V. captured during her time at ground zero.  Most of of the messages were written on signs posted around the site that said, “Post no bills.” 

A particularly strong message that Helena V. remembers is one that read, “Five years later you can still feel something in the air.  Never forget.  May 12, 2006.”

Images: The first photograph (left) is a message of love and support from Canada.  The second photo reads, "If we only had peace."

By Meghan Walsh, Communications Associate for the 9/11 Memorial