The images mounted around the small chapel space served as a stark reminder of one of America’s greatest tragedies.
Drawings and pictures of the Twin Towers rise above the New York City skyline. American flags fly defiantly in the face of attack. Firefighters, police officers and other first responders rush valiantly into harms way.
With nearly all of the artwork, two simple words were repeated: Never forget.
Area students have paid tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks through works of art. Their emotional creations are the centerpiece, along with a 3,000-piece American flag display, for the Never Forget Tribute being conducted at Forest Lawn Funeral Home on Monday.
With the namesake mission of ensuring that people memorialize and remember Sept. 11, Forest Lawn hopes to also help young people understand how the tragedy changed the nation, said Jesica Overstreet, community outreach coordinator at Forest Lawn.
Having their artwork reflect their emotions is a big part of that goal.
“Most of the youth today weren’t old enough or even born when Sept. 11 happened. It’s vague to them, so being able to educate them about something big in our history is important,” Overstreet said. “We want to keep them involved as much as possible.”
Forest Lawn will host the Never Forget commemoration event at 6 p.m. Monday. A special ceremony will honor the victims of the attack, and people will have the opportunity to sign a special banner thanking area first responders.
Staff also have placed 3,000 flags on the funeral home grounds. The flags represent the 2,996 people who died in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Afterwards, guests are invited to browse the youth artwork created for the tribute.
“We wanted something unique, so we chose art. On Memorial Day, we do an essay contest, so we thought art would be nice for this,” Overstreet said. “We wanted youth to learn a little bit more about it, and create some artwork to remember them and honor them.”
Students from Southport middle and high schools, as well as home-schooled students from the county, contributed about 215 works of art.
At Southport Middle School, art teachers Michael Greathouse and Emily Wade saw the contest as an opportunity for students to not only enter their work in a contest, but to better understand Sept. 11 as a whole.
“The kids just jumped into it. I think part of it was the presentation that we did, telling them about our own experiences that day, and then asking them to talk to their parents and other people who had been through it,” Greathouse said. “They had no concept of what Sept. 11 meant, because they weren’t even born in 2001, but after telling them these stories, you could tell that the students really cared about this project.”
To encourage other youths to submit their art, Forest Lawn partnered with Craft + Cork, a Greenwood do-it-yourself art studio. Owner Vanessa Kenworthy worked with her to plan an art night aimed at local youth.
On Aug. 30, a group of students and young people came together to create their tribute paintings.
“We’re just trying to promote something with the youth in the community to express themselves productively, which this is,” Kenworthy said. “They have art in class, but it’s different if you’re doing it in their own free time.”
Kenworthy’s children Christian, 14, at freshman at Whiteland Community High School, and Cade, 11, a sixth-grader at Clark-Pleasant Middle School, took part as well. Many members of their family have been involved with the military, and this activity served as a continuing education for them about the impact that Sept. 11 had on people.
“For a lot of older people, that’s kind of their JFK moment. Everyone remembers where they were when it happened. My kids did not know that because they were born later,” Kenworthy said. “None of them know what that was like for the rest of us, so it’s a teaching opportunity, to be honest.”
Inside a special gallery space at Forest Lawn, Overstreet has laid out the artwork on tables, displayed on the walls and using chairs as easels. The pieces show that even for children who weren’t alive when the Sept. 11 attacks occurred, they understand the sacrifice of those who died and the importance of honoring them.
“We want to remember those who have lost their lives. We think we should honor those people, as well as remember the families of those who lost their lives,” Overstreet said. “This gives everyone the opportunity to come out and remember together.”
Community members wanting to pay their respects in memory of Sept. 11 can attend events set for Monday, the 16th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
Forest Lawn Memory Gardens
Never Forget Tribute
When: 6 p.m. Monday
Where: Chapel, 1977 S. State Road 135, Greenwood.
Greenwood VFW Post No. 5864
Remembrance luncheon for Greenwood city workers and first responders
When: Noon to 3 p.m. Monday
Where: Post, 333 S. Washington St.
Meredith-Clark Funeral Home
Memorial walk to remember the events of Sept. 11.
When: 8:30 a.m. Monday
Where: Meredith-Clark Funeral Home, 179 E. Mulberry St., Morgantown.
Luncheon for first responders with a speech and prayer.
When: 11:30 a.m. Monday
Where: Whiteland VFW Post, 215 N. U.S. 31, New Whiteland.