A Commemorative Look at 9/11


Julie Marie Frances DeVoe, Copy Editor

It was a raw, gut-wrenching moment for America. After 9/11, we were wounded. When the hijacked airplanes attacked the Twin Towers and the Pentagon — and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania –the lives of Americans were irrevocably changed. Through the turmoil and the grief, we stood as one and helped others find solace in the wreckage.

In honor of the 9/11 attacks, many turned to art to commemorate the lives lost and affected by heartless people attacking our nation. One thing that was created is a handmade art book called Stories of the Ruins, which includes poems written by Lee Kottner, a former English professor at NJCU.

Kottner, who created the book with graphic artist Marcia Gilbert, is currently a production designer for a non-profit organization in New York. Kottner started writing poetry when she was a child and later received her M.A. in medieval English and History at Michigan State University. Her poetry has appeared in literary journals and small press anthologies, and in a chapbook from Blue Stone Press.

Kottner said that the 9/11 attacks “hurt so many people I knew.” She was living in Brooklyn at the time, and she “saw the smoke and smelt it.” She also said that she had to “turn my back to the bridge so that I didn’t have to see the site” after the attacks happened. Poetry has helped Kottner “process stuff like this and seemed like a perfect time to collab [orate] with Gilbert.”

It took 20-30 hours to make each book, Kottner picked out the paper, which is heavy and creamy, and Gilbert designed the insides. Some copies of the book are now in various museums.

Seeing the book for the first time made me breathless. A piece of industrialized metal borders the top and is held in place with screws. One of the first pages shows the temperature, visibility, and winds (10.4 miles per hour) on that day. A photo of the Twin Towers is shown from inside the cockpit of a plane. There is a sense of calmness people must have felt as they got on the plane that morning, before realizing their fate. Knowing what happened, this photo makes me cry as I feel the fear and pain of leaving behind loved ones.

Stories of the Ruins is a handmade art book that captures the anger and sorrow of America as a whole. It gives you the sense that you were, indeed, there. It makes you want to comfort the fallen. I want a copy for myself because 9/11 affected me and my family and we still feel its ripple effects. One poem that stood out to me was Eruption, and the stanza: “When it settles, the next day, what’s left is the dirty facsimile of a January snowstorm; the smell of stone and copper, burning; mouthfuls of ash.”

Stories of the Ruins “couldn’t happen without collaboration partner, Gilbert, and even though they lost money because these artbooks “were priced under what they were worth, [it was an escapism,]” for the tragic events that had happened to our country.