Every September since, the room has held the portraits of the 12 Ridgewood residents that lost their lives in the World Trade Center, in an exhibit that, while originating in the aftermath of the events, preserves the memories of a time before the tragedy.
“At the time of 9/11, we made a very conscious decision that we were going to grieve as a community,” said Jane Reilly, who was Ridgewood’s mayor at the time. “And part of that pact to the families was that we would remember their loved ones.”
Reilly worked with Janet Fricke, who still serves as assistant to the village manager, to collect and mount the
portraits in “museum quality,” with brief biographies intended to preserve a snapshot of each resident lost.
“It was not just the people who were there, but their friends and their neighbors and the people that work in New York City,” Reilly remembered. “As a commuter community, everyone was deeply in grief.”
Many of the biographies come from “Portraits of Grief,” a New York Times series that honored each person who passed away in the World Trade Center. Others were completed with surviving family members, who are pictured in each of the displays.
The portraits were hung at the library in November 2001, around the time a stone memorial was dedicated in a ceremony at Van Neste Park.
While the memorial services that have been held over the years have provided residents an outlet to remember those lost, Fricke said, the library exhibit is more personal. Readily accessible to the public, the display was conceived as a place for residents to reflect in their own terms throughout the month of September.
“Everybody could take away what
they wanted to,” Fricke said. While the exhibit originally featured photos from
the events themselves, in recent years the room has been lined only with
the 12 portraits, showing the “human side” of the tragedy.
“I think what we tried to capture in these portraits is that they were all individuals,” Reilly said. “This is about life with their families and in their communities.”
Sitting in the auditorium 12
years later, Reilly said the organizers had always envisioned that the
portraits would continue to provide a space for residents to remember the friends and neighbors they lost.