September 11 Digital Archive

A Way To Remember 9-11 [Lightbox]: NYC

Memorial to 9-11 033 (2).jpg


A Way To Remember 9-11 [Lightbox]: NYC


A Way To Remember 9/11: New York City
This painting, “We Are Different Now Forever - Memorial for 9/11” is of a calla lily in dark blue
space as a stylized image tilting inside a bleak,
black square with all the terror of Ground Zero
being in some way now singularly transformed
into an organic form symbolizing recovery and
flanked by two outside towers burning and two
blue memorial shafts of light.  This symbol is a
memorial to the life force within all Americans.
Several smaller wall scrolls contributed to the
evolving project.  For example, from the initial
photograph of lilies in the back of a destroyed
car under ashes, drawings emerged taken from
my journals, newspapers, as I, too, dealt with a
mountainous wave of grief for New York.  I
remember Emily Dickinson said long before the
World Trade Center fell destroyed in flames---
“We’d never know how high we are ‘til we are
called to rise; And then, if we are true to plan,
Our statures touch the skies.”
© 2002 by Mym Tuma. All Rights Reserved.
P.O. Box 549, Southampton, NY 11969
For information call 631-878-0287

How has your life changed because of what happened on September 11, 2001?

Remembering 9/11: New York City
Life is about choices. “How can I resolve this mountainous wave
of grief -- we were all interconnected,” I asked. I questioned how I
could use my art to respond to our sense of futility following 9/11.
I culled the hoard of newspapers. In one photo of a battered car
filled with ashes -- there springing from it -- were lilies that lived
through the ordeal. Plants from inside a delivery truck crushed
above the detritus were flowers! It triggered my inner life force to
go back through my journals and make sketches to uncover my
energy in germinating stages like compost (under those newspaper
layers) as I redistributed the layers of paper like a grieving
woman with a shovel in hand like many mothers and daughters.
At that point unconsciously as an artist, I chose between life and
death. We were paralyzed. “I don’t think the country will ever get
over that,” I told friends. But ultimately, I realized that we still had
the freedom to make that choice. This poem recalls the creative,
unconscious process:
Germination ... is the warmth of cover, protecting sleep,
in measureless quantities of days - of sunrises,  of phantom
images crossing the mind ... in sleep, in time, remote from
business, uncluttered by things, not filled by talking, or by
laughter, or bells, colorful memories or priorities or anything
similar to purposeful knowing after the mold has been set ...
Where Nature grew abundantly, I picked lilies --- in the fog and
sat before the ocean with them in my lap. I was inspired to create
the Calla pastel 18” x12” sketching the rhythmically flowing Calyx
of the lily pushing against the frame. I called it the life force and
turned it to fill the canvas, push against the frame -- and release
from it visually -- as a flowing whorl of rising, curving energy.
The idea to have the two stripes conjure up the memory of the
twin towers was developed step by step from the view New
Yorkers looked up at the WTC towers burning and later the two
memorial shafts of blue light in the night sky.
The painting was scanned onto the Duratrans film, sandwiched
between two layers of Plexiglas, placed into a light box 36 x 60
inches, as I experimented on how the memorial painting could
grow illuminated from within. An acrylic painting 5 ft h. x 8 ft. w.
and Memorial on canvas proceeded from that; it was hung at
Suffolk County Center, in Riverhead, NY in 2006.
In transitioning from one step to the next, the transforming power
of grief enabled me to come to peace of mind with the honor roll
of the World Trade Center victims in the newspapers during the
months it took from the 9/11 event through completion. By the
spring of 2002, I completed the large painting outside my studio
on Ponquogue Ave, in Hampton Bays, NY. I am someone who
lived 100 miles from this national catastrophe, but for the week
following each morning I wiped fine dust and ashes from my car. --Mym Tuma, MA

Referred to by

Through the Smithsonian Memorial Archives checking for the proper procedure for donating items to the collection. Please note that I have other files of the image if you would like to see them.

How will you remember the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks?

Every year I have shown the Memorial lightbox in various public buildings, including the Southampton Town Hall, the Brookhaven Town Hall, and it has been written about in the East End papers, for example, this was several years ago:
The Independent, East Hampton, NY published this:
“An unusual memorial exhibition to 9/11 was on view
at the Madelle H. Semerjian Gallery, Southampton
Memorial Library,
"We Are Different Forever," exploring what
Southampton artist Mym Tuma hopes will "console after
tragedy" and remind viewers of the triumph of creativity
over despair.
Prompted and inspired after the 9/11 tragedy by seeing
a photo of lilies sprouting incongruously from a battered
car filled with ashes," she began to sketch designs for
pastel paintings and sculpture that would embody the
sense that the radiant energy of the natural world is
never lost. The results: a light box and flower paintings
that emphasize symbols of renewal, are meant to
suggest that, "we are all connected."
Note: During the fifth Anniversary of 9/11 the larger 5 ft. by 8 ft.acrylic painting hung at the Riverhead County Center (NY) through the gracious help of Penny LaValle, Assessors office.


“A Way To Remember 9-11 [Lightbox]: NYC,” September 11 Digital Archive, accessed March 22, 2023,