‘My Way Of Giving Back’: Artist Survives 9/11 & Paints Two Towers Of People

Painter Schandra Singh was living across the street from World Trade Tower 2 on Sept. 11, 2001. She escaped, and when she returned to her building, she found this canvas still intact. She created this painting, which includes images of close to 3,000 people killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. (Courtesy)

I’m Schandra Singh. I’m a painter. And right now we are in my new studio, which is in Bridgewater, Vermont, in an old mill. I lived across the street from World Trade Tower 2, I had a small loft there.

I woke up, my phone kept ringing, and it was before cell phones for me. And someone kept hanging up on the machine. And I pick up the phone, and it’s my mother, and she’s saying, “Schandra, the World Trade Tower’s on fire.” And I said, “What?” And she said, “The World Trade Tower’s on fire.”

And I turn around, and when I turn around and look at those big 8-foot windows, I just saw people’s things, just things like rain flying down. I didn’t look directly at them, so I wasn’t seeing fire. I wasn’t seeing smoke. I just was seeing like rain, like pens and papers.

I wasn’t even that nervous, ’cause I didn’t know what was happening. My mother didn’t even know what was happening. Then I said, “You know what, Mom, you’re right. What should I do?” She said, “I would leave.”

But I was so close to the World Trade towers that my only way of going uptown was to go through them. But I was near Battery Park. So I said to her, I’m gonna go to Battery Park, where it’s open space. And I put on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt and my keys, that’s all I took with me.

Click here for the full story from VPR. This story is part of a 9/11 remembrance project, featuring the voices of Vermonters reflecting on how their lives were changed by 9/11. To find the full project, go to www.vpr.org/911.