Lisa Purdon


All photos © Drunell Levinson. All rights reserved.

On 9-14-01, I e-mailed a friend, "everything I write or say about 9-11 sounds like some terrible cliché. I don't know what else to say about it. I can now only recount the facts, the bare bones of what transpired – from my point of view."

Before 9-11, I made art objects and only knew quilting as a novice. After that day, I stopped making objects. Nothing made sense anymore. Some weeks later, I heard about September 11 Quilts, and as if by some inspiration I knew what to do and proceeded at full speed.

This quilt was my attempt to do several things – to remember the lives lost, to thank those who risked their lives to save others, and ultimately to create a document of one's struggle to make sense of it all. It was a time of bombarding images, thoughts and emotions. Through the quilt, I found containment for the chaos.

Diary entry 9-22-01 5:11 a.m.:

I only watched it from the apartment window.

What would it have been like – running for your life, watching bodies falling from the buildings? We looked closer through the binoculars. In that moment and through the tears, we could only understand it as debris – only small dots falling rather quietly to the ground.

An then seeing the towers just give way into nothingness, billowing dust and debris and people. From this distance, it was a soft, quiet and consuming form – expanding and engulfing the entire lower part of Manhattan. It was a toxic cloud to my eyes and my mind.

I can't stop seeing it. My dreams are dark images involving sudden evacuations, lines of people and great confusion. If sleep comes, I awaken to find myself standing at the window or some imagined window. I'm looking for instructions from the authorities: firemen, FBI and military.

Dirt and dust and darkness. I feel anxious and out of control.

Lisa Purdon          


We heard the incredible roar of a jet as it passed over our heads. We felt the vibration. We watched debris falling from the building. We saw rescuers going up into the tower as we tried to escape. We saw a second plane hit, and we knew it wasn't an accident. We saw the first tower fall. We saw people running. We watched from our homes as we sipped our morning coffee. We watched on our televisions with absolute bewilderment. We watched as the cloud of debris poured over the island. We wanted to help, but we felt helpless.

This is a memorial to the witnessing of events on and around September 11th. It is dedicated to all the witnesses of September 11th, wherever they were – The World Trade Center, Brooklyn, Kansas, California or China.... We were all witnesses. This quilt examines the relationship between the shock of assimilation and the need to respond and reach out to others.

On that day, communication was largely shut down in New York. Some cell phones worked, while others didn't. All circuits were busy, but if you could connect, you could communicate thru email. We sent and received countless email to family and friends in the days that followed. We wanted to connect any way we could.

Included are excerpts from actual email gathered from friends, family and via the internet. They are both personal accounts and historical documents. They are the pleas for reassurance.

Lisa Purdon          

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