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Crafts Center Remembers 9/11 Victims with Art of Remembrance Event

On Saturday, Sept. 11, the NC State Crafts Center, along with Arts NC State, the music and dance departments, Military and Veteran Services and others hosted the Art of Remembrance to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

An ROTC cadet in uniform stands in the spotlight and plays the trumpet in front of a screen that reads "Art of Remembrance"
An ROTC cadet plays Taps at the Art of Remembrance event on Saturday, Sept. 11.

On September 11, 2001, John Cerqueira ’01 was working on the 81st floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center when an airliner operated by terrorists intentionally crashed into the building about 10 floors above where he sat, kicking off an hour-long journey to evacuate the building. The events of that fateful day left a major impression on his life — including a lifelong passion for helping others.

On his way down the stairs that morning, Cerqueira and his boss came across a colleague in a motorized wheelchair on the 67th floor. The elevators weren’t safe to use, and the wheelchair was too heavy to lift, so they successfully transferred the person to a lighter emergency wheelchair that they helped carry down the remaining stairs and exited the building through a broken window in the first floor lobby. 

“Shortly after we got out, tower one started to collapse with us a mere block or two away, and we made our way down the West Side Highway, running and trying to escape the cloud of smoke and debris before taking refuge behind a news van,” he said. “My involvement in the events that happened that day shifted my priorities in life to focus on family and friends and acts of service, and ultimately led me to the realization that we are most fulfilled when we serve others.”

Cerqueira was one of several speakers at the NC State Crafts Center’s Art of Remembrance event on Saturday, Sept. 11, which recognized the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. The event, held in Stewart Theatre and also livestreamed on the university’s YouTube channel, also included performances by students in the NC State music and dance departments as well as presentations by esteemed artists who shared their work commemorating the occasion. One of those artists was Charles Moretz ’72, whose photography exhibition, “Genius Loci,” is currently on view at the Crafts Center. Moretz moved to New York following his graduation from NC State, and in 1982 he was commissioned by the president of the World Trade Centers Association to create a series of photographs of the buildings for a permanent installation at the Windows of the World restaurant in the North Tower. His work was destroyed along with the building in 2001. 

“When the towers came down, I was numb,” Moretz said. “I knew I needed to bring back my pictures to honor and remember. My vision is to create a permanent installation to commemorate the spirit of the Twin Towers — that city within a city.”

Another alumnus, Mark Evans ’16, also escaped the World Trade Center on 9/11. He is now executive director, creative director and partner for The Nice Kids, a creative consulting agency in New York City. On Saturday, he shared one of his most recent films called Sound of September, which featured an audible collection of his experiences from that day.

“Over the years, I’ve shared my story with many people, but I always felt there was something missing — something I couldn’t accurately convey, something I couldn’t completely share,” he said. “It was more than words, senses, emotions. That something was the ‘how’ I experienced the events of that day. And that ‘how’ was a heightened sense of sound.

“Instead of hearing the sounds of first responders and the chaos and the yelling, I heard papers falling from the sky and pieces of concrete hitting the ground,” he continued. “It was important for me to create something that would more accurately tell my story.”

Charles Moretz ’72 delivers his remarks at the Art of Remembrance event.

Carol Fountain Nix, director of the Crafts Center, also spoke at the event, which she said has been in the works since 2012. It started with Moretz’s photography and expanded to include poetry, sculpture, monuments, videography and storytelling by survivors like Cerqueira. 

“As 20 years have now passed since that fateful morning, the events of that day must be remembered as a critical part of our nation’s history,” Nix said. “Many students today have no memory of the horror that gripped this nation, so it is more important than ever to use these moments to foster a more inclusive consciousness. 

“Understanding history has always been critical to ensuring a better future, and education and the arts are central to delivering the message of lessons learned,” Nix continued. “Art provides the fearless message and inquiry, and receiving the message requires introspection and understanding. Understanding requires responsibility, and responsibility requires action. This is what has culminated in tonight’s memorial ceremony, and we are proud to share it with you.”

Genius Loci: The Art of Remembrance is on display at the Crafts Center through Nov. 5. Learn more about this exhibition and others at the Crafts Center on their website.