“Dear Hero” Letters Honor Frontline Workers

A child's drawing features red, white, and blue imagery, a variety of helpful first responders, and the message "When things get tuff (sic) we stand together! Please don't give up... your (sic) doing great!"
Collection 9/11 Memorial Museum, A Gift from the American Red Cross.

Amid the global fight against the spread of COVID-19, children may find themselves in a similar situation to what young people faced after 9/11. How do they process the sadness, anger, and confusion brought about by the large-scale tragedy? How do they confront the feelings of helplessness that may arise?

The children who faced these questions after the terror attacks in 2001 found creative answers: for many, activities like drawing, painting, and writing became an outlet to express and process their emotions surrounding the attacks. The artwork was often accompanied by uplifting messages of hope and appreciation for the heroic actions of those assisting with the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero. As such, families and schools began to mail these tributes directly to first responders and volunteers in New York City.

Tanya Hoggard, a volunteer for the Salvation Army who collected and compiled a collection of these tributes, noticed the impact that this artwork had on first responders. Firefighters, she noted, often hung these images above their beds, on their walls, or scattered them throughout the firehouse. The artwork provided comfort and encouragement to first responders while simultaneously recognizing the sacrifices they made throughout their work on the frontline. 

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Collection 9/11 Memorial Museum, A Gift from the American Red Cross. 

The 9/11 Memorial & Museum is home to more than 3,000 of these poignant tributes. Each provides inspiration for children to creatively navigate their emotions and express their support for the essential workers serving us all during these uncertain times.

Today, a new generation of adults and children must process the emotions that arise from confronting the images and details of the unfolding crisis. We invite you to share your own message of gratitude and appreciation for those on the frontline by participating in our “Dear Hero” campaign.

Download the template, write your “Dear Hero” message, tag us on Instagram or Facebook @911Memorial or on Twitter @Sept11Memorial, and use #DearHero.

By Jenna Rayman, Exhibition Media Coordinator, 9/11 Memorial & Museum

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