The Maplewood Artist Who Brought Healing Post 9/11
Valerie Rhatigan’s mural — which adorns Maplewood Fire Engine 33 — comforted many in the aftermath of September 11.
By Mary Mann
On September 11, 2001, Valerie Rhatigan was the proprietor of Val’s Art Studio on Maplewood Avenue.
Rhatigan says that when the planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in the fields of Shanksville, Pa, “an explosion of anger, sadness and heightened patriotism came over me.”
Being an artist, Rhatigan dealt with her feelings the best way she knew how.
“I bought a 40 x 60 canvass and started to sketch. Taking hints and advice from my husband Greg and friends, as to placement and content, the picture began to emerge. A week long drawing frenzy began. I took the Statue of Liberty, the image of Iwo Jima, a policeman, the three firefighters and three American flags to display patriotism.”
Rhatigan put the unframed image in the large front window of her studio in Maplewood Village.
As a result, “People came into my studio just to talk, vent and relay sad stories they had experienced or heard concerning that awful day. I wanted to frame the piece with a fire hose which was donated to me by a Nutley, N.J. firefighter. The frame was completed when another firefighter, from Springfield, N.J., donated a hose nozzle.”