Robin Schwalb

We Watched

All photos © Drunell Levinson. All rights reserved.

The phone call woke me on the morning of September 11th: "Turn on the TV right away!" We live on the border of Brooklyn Heights and downtown Brooklyn, facing away from the harbor but close enough to lower Manhattan to hear the sound of the plane smashing into the second Tower echo off the building across the street.

In the days that followed, memorials to the victims spontaneously blossomed throughout the city. One bouquet or candle or note attracted others, until nearly the whole length of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade was one continuous shrine. Some of the notes were multiples, posted at regular intervals. But one lone handwritten note, paper curling and ink fading, caught my eye:

      "To the victims of September 11: we watched you being murdered —
       sorry your last hours were so terrible.

It cut right to the heart: "murdered." The rage and anguish of those simple words took my breath away.

That text was a piece of "found art"; no matter how I tried, I couldn't match its power and economy. Combined with an image of the fan-like ruins, it made this quilt. The sheer amount of stitchery — everything from fussy hand appliqué to large embroidery floss quilting stitches — was both work and pleasure and sustained me through what would otherwise have been too sad to bear.

Robin Schwalb           

          Cotton fabrics, stenciled, photo silk-screened. Hand and machine pieced, hand appliquéd, hand quilted. 72"H by 36"W.

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