- The Washington Times - Monday, December 10, 2001

Madeline Moy takes the stage of the Springbrook High School auditorium in Silver Spring,Md., standing beneath a giant screen showing images from September 11, the day she lost her husband.
It has been two months since Ted Moy died while working in his civilian job at the Pentagon, and daily living is still difficult for his wife and son, Daniel, a Springbrook ninth-grader.
"I'm so proud of you all," Mrs. Moy tells the students and their parents at the recent opening of a school art exhibit commemorating September 11. "I can see your hearts really went into this."
The exhibit is a replica of the World Trade Center Towers surrounded by a mock-up of the Pentagon. The Springbrook students' creations stand in the foyer of the school to mark the day their lives changed.
Each is plastered with photos, pulled from the Internet during the days after September 11, that have been fashioned into computerized digital collages by art students in Jonathan Mann's classes.
The exhibit, titled "Toward Unity," was the culmination of a two-month project and a chance for students to try to make sense of what they had seen, to mark the tragedy in their own way.
"While we couldn't go to ground zero or even give blood because the centers were full, we were able to honor the people lost in those attacks in our own way," said senior Lesley Bruce.
Some in the suburban Washington community had friends, relatives or parents killed or injured when terrorists guided a passenger jet into the Pentagon.
Most were deeply affected by the constant barrage of images that flooded the Internet and television after the attack fire, chaos, buildings collapsing, people dying.
Students were dazed by the events and uncertain if they were real, Mr. Mann said. They needed a way to rationalize the newly changed world, a way to make sense of it.
"Here were adolescents, high school students being sensitive to this. Usually we think of this as an adult thing. But they demonstrated a tremendous amount of sensitivity to this," he said.
Two days after the terrorist attacks, Mr. Mann asked the 160 students in his classes if there was a way they wanted to memorialize what happened. They came up with the idea of the digital art after seeing a slide show of September 11 images Mr. Mann had put together.
As the project took shape during the next two months, they were forced to think about the role art can play in tragedy, Mr. Mann said. Students studied the reactions of artists to other calamities, such as Pablo Picasso's famous "Guernica," dedicated to the Spanish city bombed by German planes in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War.
Their own reactions were varied. Springbrook has a diverse student body 80 nationalities are represented among the 2,000 students differences that Mr. Mann said brought out a wide range of responses to the attacks.
There are common themes in the pieces that students made by blending digital images with a computer program. Photos of firefighters at ground zero, the American flag, President Bush and eagles show up in many.
Images of the World Trade Center towers dominate most of the pieces, their top floors blackened and smoldering, like giant cigarettes ready to crumble into ash.
Osama bin Laden looms in the background of many, ghosted behind images of the fated towers. One shows President Bush with a beard and the Statue of Liberty in a face-covering burqa with the ominous warning "If the Taliban wins "
But not all are comfortable with displays of bald patriotism.
Tenth-grader Colleen Orton depicted a young Muslim girl carrying a sign that reads "I am an American, not a " Below her the orange flames of an explosion blossom.
Colleen says in a caption to her piece that she knows it is different from the others. But she isn't sure that a violent response to the attacks is the right answer for the country. "I don't feel that the bombing is going to help the situation," she wrote.
The exhibit will remain in the school foyer for the rest of the academic year, Mr. Mann said, and school officials hope to find a permanent home for it eventually.
No matter what the message the students' put into their work, the art was their chance to be heard, said Lesley Bruce.
"Even though we are only teen-agers, we still love our country and want to help," she said.

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