Reflections on 9/11 as an Artist

By March 6, 2014News & Articles

Exactly ten years ago, this exact hour, I was trapped in the number 3 subway underneath the Chambers Street Station as horrific events of 9/11 took place above me. I was trying to get home after organizing a prayer meeting for PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THE ARTS in a building on the Westside. By the time the subway back-tracked to 14th St., 45 minutes later, the towers were gone.

My wife had just dropped off our two youngest children at PS 234 only two blocks from the towers. It was their first day of school.  As I ran back toward home, brushing against business folks covered in the white ashes, I realized that our loft may not be standing.  Instead, I decided to go to my studio below Canal St, ten blocks from the towers, where my wife, thankfully, left a telephone message saying that the children had been evacuated safely, and that she would meet me at the studio. Even at that point, I had no idea what really happened.  Soon after, my wife’s ghostly face told me enough: she had met Death face to face and survived.

We have been involved in Redeemer movement since 1992. Tim’s admonition to the leaders to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city” (Jeremiah 29) meant considering to raise our children in the heart of this city.  We followed Jesus’ leading to do so, but we did not realize that in doing so, we will become Ground Zero residents.

As an artist, I HAVE spent the last decade searching for a visual language to capture the terrors of our days, but using the medium of art to transcend fears, to infuse hope, and to walk through the fires of life to find the sanctifying fire of God waiting for us. International Arts Movement, a non profit arts organization I founded, made a radical effort to co-create in the midst of the chaos by providing an opportunity for downtown artists to grieve.  I am grateful for Redeemer Church to have supported this effort, called TriBeCa Temporary, as we were able to give voices to many artists who were outsiders to churches. Art mediates such dark journeys, and even artists who were not cognizant of God’s grace appreciated being part of a project that allowed them to hope, to create, and to re-humanize.

After 9/11, Judy and I, as parents, had to decide whether to stay or leave. We decided to stay and to commit to raising our children here. Our children learned to invest their creative energies into this broken city. As our youngest daughter heads off to college now, we are indeed grateful that all of them have grown to love this city, to gain empathy for the suffering of others, and to dare to create in the midst of the chaos. Our children are the visible reminder of Jeremiah 29’s promises being fulfilled, even through our uncertain, feeble prayers uttered on the morning of 9/11/2001.

By Makoto Fujimura


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