On my bus ride downtown, I pass a grocery store with a diptych mural on one wall.  I pass it nearly every morning.  Sometimes I glance at it, sometimes I really study it, sometimes I don’t notice or think of it — buried in a novel or notebook.

The mural is a 9/11 memorial.  On the left is a woman, a beautiful black woman in a flowing white gown and angel wings, palms facing out.  A nurturing flight pose, not superhero style.  On the right is a black man in uniform, a fallen police officer.  He is dignified, someone’s respectable, almost-middle-aged dad.

There are 9/11 memorials all over this city.  Many show the towers and say things like “Never Forget” and “Always in our hearts.”  They have become part of the landscape, a fixture in a city that is still processing the events of 9½ years ago.

This morning I rode the bus and, as we neared the intersection that gives me a view of the mural, I looked up … only to see that the mural is gone.  I looked around to make sure I was in the right spot, then looked back and verified that yes, the mural is gone.  The wall has been painted over, first in white and now half in a peach-tinged beige.

Obviously, the building’s owner can do what he or she likes with that wall.  Yes.  Of course.  But that mural … it just never occurred to me that it could be disappeared so easily.

I have no idea who the people in the mural were, no idea what their relationship to the artist was … or to the person who originally approved that wall for their memorial.  To me they have always been anonymous, two of many, many victims.  But they had become part of my day to day, part of my landscape, remembered because of their regular presence in my morning.  And now, just as suddenly, they are gone.

To see the rest of today’s slices, head over to Two Writing Teachers.

12 thoughts on “Ephemera

  1. I read, then, with interest the article about Banksy in the New York Times this morning–who does street art belong to? We who enjoy and love the art want it to continue if not for perpetuity, at least for a long, long time.

    It’s especially sad that this diptych was painted over, not only for the loss of the street art, but also the loss of the message. You are so right about the 9/11 message being imbued in the lives of those in New York (where I assume you are)–it is a part of the fabric of their lives.


    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. Yes, I’m in New York (Brooklyn, to be exact). I love the question about who does street art belong to. It’s one I think about quite a bit. That and the almost built-in impermanence of those pieces. I’m amazed by things that last. The graffiti mural I fell in love with when I first moved to the city half my life ago remains. It’s worn and faded a bit, but it’s still there. Go figure!


  2. Elizabeth G.

    My heart was heavy when reading this. I understand that eventually things change. I can only imagine your surprise when that memorial was gone. How sad!


  3. I caught my breath when you wrote that the mural is gone. It seems sinful, cruel…like someone knocking over a tombstone. We need these artwork reminders. Our children need to see these reminders. This is our history.

    Sad. So very sad.


    1. I particularly liked this mural memorial because it was so quiet, almost regal. I think one of the things I like about the memorials like this is that they affirm that there’s a place for public grief, that it’s “ok” to continue to feel hurt, sad, angry, loss. I’m really sorry to have lost this one.


  4. As always, I love your writing.
    You remind us that we take some things for granted, and almost rely on them like arrows in the compass, and then when they are gone … we’re left wondering.
    Thanks for sharing.


  5. I love the poignancy of this slice, this reminder that life is really made up of moments, things, and people that pass in and out of our experience and then are gone.

    Sometimes when I think something I’ve done has gone unseen or unappreciated, I think of things like this mural. I like to remember that the things we create make up other people’s worlds, even if we never meet them, even if we never know it.


    1. I like to remember that the things we create make up other people’s worlds, even if we never meet them, even if we never know it.

      Lisa, I love that you said this. Thanks.


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