POINCIANA — There are a lot of ways to mourn, to express grief, to cope with a painful situation.
And one of the surest healing methods, Bobbi Mastrangelo believes, is when people come together, and feel that surging sense of unity, and experience the exhilaration that a true test character brings — particularly when its done in a group.
“Americans are strong people, and they’re innovative and creative,” Mastrangelo said. “They’re just so amazing and dedicated. We’re not an oppressed nation at all.”
Mastrangelo is an artist who lives at the Solivita development in Poinciana, where she’s a part of the Solivita Artisan Guild — and has had a special interest in
artwork dedicated to a devastating moment in American history: the Sept. 11 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington D.C. that shocked and horrified this nation, and left millions feeling vulnerable and terrified about the future.
Mastrangelo has curated art, photos, poetry, songs and videos that pay homage to those who lost their lives on Nine-Eleven, including firemen, policemen,
rescue workers, Ground Zero work crews, and the military.
She started this project right around the time Independence Day was coming up, when she decided to create a sculpture called ‘Don’t Go Soft on Terrorism,’ a collage on all the 9-11 happenings, taken from Lifemagazine. Mastrangelo is perhaps best known for her work replicating water covers and manhole covers in streetscapes. She decided to work on ‘Don’t Go Soft on Terrorism’ and other homages, she said, because she loves patriotic works of art.
What’s surprising, she added, is how much has changed in the past decade since those devastating attacks. That was reflected, Mastrangelo said, when Solivita held a memorial breakfast on Sunday morning to pay tribute to those lost in the deadliest terrorist attacks in this nation’s history.
“It was a beautiful tribute and the veterans were all there and gave their tribute,” she said. “They put my sculpture ‘Don’t Go Soft on Terrorism’ at the entryway along with the flags they had, two flags crossed over a clear glass container of pebbles, and people could take a pebble as a remembrance. They had two big posters with 911 in the center, and people could put their comments right around it and be framed.”
More importantly, she said, neighbors turned out, and that sense of unity was everywhere among the 160 people in the Solivita ballroom on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
“When it’s your country, you want to be a part of the healing — and I think people are healing, too,” she said. “It brought a lot of tears to people’s eyes, and there were beautiful memories of people coming together, and you felt the spirit of unity and patriotism.”
This was the first time the Veterans Club of Solivita held this memorial service, said Val Ramos, commander of the club. It was done, he said, to mark the 10 year anniversary of the tragic terrorist attacks, and to remember the victims.
“We honored the men in uniform, the emergency responders and the police and firemen who died during the attacks,” Ramos said, adding that the size of the crowd surprised and impressed him.
“It was very well received, and I think it will be something we will continue to do.”
He agreed with Mastrangelo that the event also demonstrated that a tragedy unites people and makes them stronger.
“That is a fact,” he said. “The Poinciana Veterans Club held the ceremony here, and that is precisely the feel I got out of the crowd. Divided we accomplish nothing. United, this nation is extremely strong.”
Mastrangelo uses her web site — www.bobbimastrangelo.com — and Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/bobbi.mastrangelo, to present her artwork to a wider audience. She also has a blog she writes about her artistic and emotional reaction to the attacks.
“When I started doing this blog, I started out writing to people locally and seeing if they could participate,” she said, adding that she got a huge response.
“The media left out a lot of wonderful dedications by our people,” she said. “We want to grow in this world, to heal and get along better. This has become almost a spiritual experience. I’ve run into beautiful things happening. There were a lot of good groups that formed after 9-11.”
Mastrangelo said she expects to continue creating lasting tributes to 911 in the future.
“It may be that in 2012, I’ll probably come back with another one,” she said. “I think it’s going to be ongoing, showing what kind of loves and emotions and goodness we spread to the world.”
In fact, Mastrangelo said she decided to play a role in that in a small way.
“I’m studying arabic,” she said. “I’m in the baby steps of studying it. It’s a beautiful culture.”
Mastrangelo said she’s not alone among Americans who want to reach out to, and understand better, the culture of the Arabic world, particularly those Muslims who abhor the kind of violence and mayhem caused by the terrorists on Nine-Eleven.
“From what I’ve read of statistics, more and more people are doing this,” she said. And as a result, “I think our future is better.”
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