After 9/11, handprint flags became ubiquitous.
They took various forms & sizes, but the intention was always a symbolic pledge of support. I created Hoboken’s first 9/11 memorial and I was inspired by a flag that was sent here from Georgia as a gesture of support for our loss. The story of how that flag came to be is here http://www.rumblestrip.org/2002/10/12/flag-day/
I later managed to have that flag donated to the Hoboken Historical Museum, since I felt it wasn’t being treated with the dignity it deserved. That inspiration from Georgia led me to create the first public Hoboken 9/11 memorial. I proposed my idea to Superintendant Patrick Gagliardi, he thought it was a great idea and supported it. My memorial was on display with the Hoboken Board of Education for 13 years, where it had pride of place on the wall behind the Board members during their meetings.
I began with collecting handprints for the red stripes at Wallace school on Jan 29, 2002. There were 10 classrooms, K-5, who signed up. On March 4, the canvas moved on to receive the handprints of the victims children at All-Saints Church, which is where the Hoboken 9/11 support group met on Monday nights. The remaining stars were completed with Mile Square Day Care children on March 7, and I completed the artwork on March 8, 2002. It is a monoprint, acrylic on canvas, 59.25" X 112" (about 5' X 9'). It is neither a painting or a print. It is a combination of both.
There are 229 handprints, 8 of which are the children of the Hoboken victims. The white handprints on the canton of my flag represent the 9/11 victims from Hoboken. I placed them alphabetically, and if they had a child, their child's handprint represented their lost parent. My wife Mary, my daughter Valerie, and my son Charlie are the handprints that have a heart in their palm.
It was dedicated at the Hoboken Board of Ed on the evening of April 30, 2002 with a presentation by Sandy O’Connor and myself. Sandy’s written presentation had the audience in tears.
Each star represents one of 47 residents from Hoboken. They are listed in alphabetical order, and the victims children’s prints are matched with the name of their lost parent or loved one. My definition of ‘from Hoboken’ meant that they were either born here or officially lived here at the time of the event.
I was very fortunate that all those who suffered a loss that day were willing to be a part of my project. I sought out each family on my list and one way or another I was able to include them in the project. I were in the same situation, I’m not sure if I would be willing at all.
I also created another handprint flag that represented people from Hoboken and sent that on to Rome, Georgia as a thank you for the large one they sent here. It included politicians, police, firemen, children, homeless people from my art class, 9/11 family members, clergy and my family.
On the tenth anniversary, the flag was included in the city’s memorial ceremony on Pier A, and I made a full-size digital print for Hoboken High School.
Imani Soler, one of the kids who made a handprint so long ago, helped me re-dedicate the flag at the Board of Ed, by reading Sandy’s writing from the first dedication. I thought it was great that she was part of it, she represented well the time that had passed, and our hope for the future.
My Hoboken Children's Memorial Flag is now in it's new home at Hoboken City Hall, 94 Washington Street, first floor lobby. I was very happy to have it displayed with the Hoboken Board of Education for over a dozen years, and am pleased to be able to share it with a new audience!
I was an eyewitness to the towers destruction that day, and it deeply affected me.
The Flag isn’t the sort of art that I usually make, but it’s become one of the things I am most proud of.