Stories of Hope: 2,983 Shades of Blue

A large plaque in Memorial Hall reads, “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.” The quote from Virgil’s epic poem The Aeneid is surrounded by 2,983 individual blue tiles that comprise "Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning,” an installation by Spencer Finch. Every square is a unique shade of blue, reflecting the artist's attempt to remember the color of the sky on the morning of 9/11 and commemorating the victims of September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993.
Photo by Jin S. Lee

Like many people my age, I have no memory of the 9/11 attacks.

But I'll never forget the first time I visited the Museum. As I got to bedrock level about 70 feet underground, I looked up and saw a wall of blue. It was one of the most stunning pieces of art or museum artifacts I'd ever seen.

It’s a piece by the artist Spencer Finch titled, “Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning”, and it’s made up of 2,983 individual watercolor tiles, each one representing a victim of the 9/11 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. In the center is another artwork by the artist Tom Joyce, letters fashioned from World Trade Center steel that read, “No Day Shall Erase You From the Memory Of Time.”

Though it might appear that some of these tiles share the same color, in fact, they’re all a distinct shade of blue made to represent the collective memory of the blue sky above New York City that morning.

The different shades also remind us of the individuality of each person memorialized. While it’s the 9/11 Memorial’s mission to commemorate their deaths, it’s also to honor how they lived. Their passions, their trials, their relationships, how they came to be who they were.

During my time at the Memorial, I’ve put faces to those blue tiles. I’ve had the privilege of learning about how many of the victims lived their lives, through stories passed down by their families and their friends and through artifacts at the Museum. Even though I can’t remember 9/11, working at the Museum has helped me forge a meaningful, human connection to this pivotal moment in history.

When we think of the death toll on 9/11, it’s, of course, devastating. But when we see a piece like Spencer Finch’s, there is hope to be found — hope in 2,983 legacies of love, friendship, and common humanity that nearly 20 years later, live on.

By Olivia Egger, Assistant Communications Manager


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