After 9/11, a Banner of Compassion from a Group of Fourth-Grade Students

A vibrantly colored children's mural featuring patriotic imagery hangs against a stone wall in the Museum's Tribute Walk gallery.
Collection 9/11 Memorial Museum, Gift of Lawrence Knafo

As many around the country grappled with the tragic aftermath of 9/11, one art teacher, Sarah Orvin, sought to respond through a group project with her students.

After seeing her students struggle with the tragedy, Orvin asked her class of fourth graders from the Porter Gaud Lower School in Charleston, South Carolina, to draw pictures and write patriotic messages to help themselves heal. Their creations included images of the attack sites prior to 9/11, poignant notes to first responders inscribed in brightly colored hearts, and patriotic symbols like the American flag and the Statue of Liberty. The students’ drawings and messages were then copied and painted onto a large canvas banner.

  • Detail shot of the children's mural, featuring multicolored hearts and people singing
  • Detail shot of the children's mural, featuring first responders before a yellow sky
  • Detail shot of the children's mural, featuring the Twin Towers against an American flag background
  • Detail shot of the children's mural, featuring an American flag and patriotic messages
Detail shots of the mural

Orvin, wanting to share her students’ compassionate creation, sent the banner hundreds of miles away to the office of Rudy Giuliani, then-mayor of New York City, but did not learn about the banner’s final whereabouts until much later. As Orvin was told by a 9/11 Memorial & Museum employee years later, the banner ultimately hung in the children’s play area of the Family Assistance Center, a space that provided support for the family members of 9/11 victims in New York. After the Center closed, a city worker found the banner and eventually donated it to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.

For years, the banner hung in Tribute Walk, an area in the Museum dedicated to artwork and objects created in remembrance of 9/11 by artists and ordinary people alike. While any museumgoer could gaze at the banner, it was an important piece to view for one group in particular: young students participating in guided school programs at the Museum. Countless third, fourth, and fifth graders have intently studied the banner created by children who were their age in 2001. Again and again, today’s students have remarked upon the love, compassion, and hope shown by even the youngest of Americans after the attacks.

By Molly DePippo, Education Specialist, 9/11 Memorial & Museum

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