Porter Gaud 9/11 mural shared with nation

By Stefanie

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV)-- Lower school students at Porter Gaud School painted a mural after 9/11. The picture was sent to New York, where it hung at a 9/11 family assistance center during the dark days after the attack.

The children, who painted the mural in 2001, are now juniors and seniors at Porter Gaud.

"We were kind of overwhelmed," said Leah Guest. "We didn't know what to think of it because we didn't understand a lot of what was happening."

Guest helped paint the mural when she was in the second grade. She was just 7-years-old when terrorists struck the heart of New York City, taking down the twin towers and claiming thousands of lives.

"Very confused, we were in the second grade. You don't think that something like that can happen," said Wilson Daniel, who also took part in the art project in the second grade.

Second grade seems so long ago, but for former art teacher Laura Orvin, the images not only of the attacks, but her student's paintings are still fresh in her mind.

"As children do, they draw what they feel, and what they have seen and I started seeing the children draw (were) images of the towers burning, the planes crashing into the towers, and that's just distressing," said Laura Orvin.

Orvin was the art teacher at the lower school at that time. She said she wanted a way to change the children's negative and confused feelings into positive ones.

"I wanted to turn that around," she said. "What can I do to encourage them to look at the things that they love about America and hopefulness."

The result was a painting that showcased proud images of America. All 306 Porter Gaud lower school students took part in the project.

"When it was finished, I mailed it up to Mayor Giuliani's office. I didn't know what happened to it, had no idea what had come of our mural," Orvin said.

But then five years later, she got a phone call from a 9/11 museum director who answered the mystery of the mural.

"Our banner had been wrapped up and stuck in a closet and an electrician had found it and had given it to them at the museum," Orvin said.

After years of being lost, the mural was dusted off and shared with the world. It was recently published in a national 9/11 art book and will hang at the Ground Zero Museum opening in 2012.

"It just shows we were so far away, but we did something. ...I think that showed a lot about our country," Leah Guest said.

All the proceeds from the art book, which features the student's mural, will fund the National September 11th Memorial & Museum in New York City.