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Barron Arts Center Exhibit Remembers a Decade Since 9/11

"In Memorium: Creative Responses to 9/11" continues through Oct. 2.

Ten years after September 11,  Woodbridge continues to keep the memory of that tragic day in perspective. The Barron Arts Center commemorated the victims and first responders of 9/11 with “A Township Remembers,” a dedication ceremony and art exhibit featuring 9/11 artwork from local artists. The exhibit runs through October 2.

Mayor John McCormac showed up for the dedication ceremony.

“In the aftermath of that attack on our soil, a mere 30 miles from this location, it is important that we never forget the sacrifice of the nearly 3,000 men and women, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives--all innocent victims of that fateful day," McCormac said.

For many, emotions continue to run high nearly a decade after the WTC attacks.

“It’s always nice to see people come out. You know I think people in their own way have a memorial,” said a tearful Robert Snowfield from the Avenel-Colonia First Aid Squad. Although Snowfield didn’t personally lose loved ones during 9/11, the recent loss of his own parents brought a painful reminder of the many children who lost their parents 10 years ago. 

“I know a lot of people who lost a lot of people. Just watching the stories being replayed again across the nation, everybody--the kids who don’t have parents now… The best thing we can do as a nation is pull together," Snowfield said.

Richard Naruszewicz, who spoke at the dedication ceremony,  became choked up.

“If anybody thinks that anybody can bring this country down to our knees, they haven’t scratched the surface of what keeps this country together," he said.

Naruszewicz, a ferry boat captain,

“Nine round trips, 21 hours straight. I lost count after 4,000 people. We’d be ready to do it again tomorrow if we had to," Naruszewicz said.

The Barron exhibit itself paints many moods, much like the various art styles that fill it. Some are innocent children’s drawings; others are more overtly political and intense. Regardless, the overall mood of the ceremony is found somewhere in between, and the overall theme is simply remembrance.

Remembrance is key for the younger generations born during or after 2001, such as many of the Boy Scout Troop #143 that was on hand for the ceremony. To them, 9/11 cannot exist as a memory, only as a piece of history. Exhibits like those at the Barron Arts Center can serve to benefit the living memory of that day.

 “Hopefully the kids, the next generation, will realize our freedom and how precious it is, said Ellen Cohen of Colonia, who frequents 9/11 memorials. “Take nothing for granted.”

The large crowd that gathered for the memorial is proof that after a decade, America still has not forgotten. Nor has the amount of 9/11 artwork filling the Barron Arts Center shown any apathy for its cause.

Cynthia Knight, Director of the Barron Arts Center said that no artwork was left behind.

“I didn’t reject anything. We found a spot for everything. We put it on an easel or hung it on a nail somewhere, but everything went in the show," she said.

Knight says the Arts Center had done a similar exhibit just three years after 9/11 with great success. When asked if a 9/11 exhibit back in 2004 was too soon, she said no.

“As a matter of fact, people sought us out, not knowing what to do with their (9/11) art. Everyone started coming to us just to talk about 9/11 even before the whole concept of the show began. I realized I had a lot of things together and people, so I decided to put the show together," Knight said.

Some artists were on hand for the event, including Julius Webber, whose “An Evening Before” depicts a scene of the waterfront one day before September 11. Webber, a local artist, painted “An Evening Before” in 2002, just one year after the event.     

Others came together more organically such as Glenn Murgacz’s “A Nation in Shock.”

“These were skeletons from another sculpture I was working on. Using these pieces I consolidated them and realized there’s a possibility of another sculpture," he said.

Originally this was not meant as a 9/11 memorial.

“But a friend I work with suggested I put this flag in the middle of it. And when this exhibit came up, it just seemed perfect.”

Perfection may not seem like an appropriate term for any memorial, least of all 9/11. But the dedication of the artists is a noble effort, especially when viewed and appreciated by the many firefighters and paramedics who remember that tragic day as if it were yesterday.

Men such as Robert Snowfield who view the artwork and know that, “We can never let this happen again. We have to move forward, but as the saying goes, ‘Never Forget.’”

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