Thousands send messages of post-9/11 hope

Lily Grimstead from Lubbock, Texas looks to place

Lily Grimstead from Lubbock, Texas looks to place a ribbon on the "9-11 Ribbons of Hope" interactive art project designed to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in Battery Park. (Sept. 9, 2011) Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

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The fluttering ribbons came from near and far, their messages and prayers weaving a tapestry of emotions in lower Manhattan.

"Never give up hope" . . . "Let us love every neighbor" . . . "I pray we have a true respect for others, regardless of religion."

Organizers of "9/11 Ribbons of Hope" in Battery Park said they had collected more than 10,000 messages by Friday evening and are hoping for a total of 50,000 by the time the exhibit closes Monday morning. The ribbons, each bearing a handwritten message, are tied to 12 tall vertical mesh panels.

The messages were solicited from across the country by a New York City-based coalition of interfaith groups as part of the Prepare New York initiative, which aims to foster community in the aftermath of the controversy generated by a proposal to build a mosque near the World Trade Center site. Some groups mailed in batches of messages while others came in digital form that the coalition transferred on to physical ribbons.

Visitors can make and add their own ribbons to the exhibit until Monday.

"It's a simple gesture that all kinds of people can make, writing down a thought or prayer," said the Rev. Robert Chase, executive director of Manhattan-based Intersections International. "It's a forward-looking kind of thing instead of a retrospective."

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The ribbon that caught one visitor's eye read simply, "Forgiveness."

"I made a photo of this because I think it's a first step to beginning again," said Lorenzo Della Rocco, 30, of Bologna, Italy. "It's a good project. And it's important because it gives a voice to everyone, from those who say, 'Forgive,' to those who say, 'Fight on.' "

A visitor from London, Deborah Blaustein, 21, remembered that Sept. 11, 2001, coincided with her first day of secondary school. "9/11 affected the whole world. It affected us," she said. "It's actually weird coming here to New York, because we're not part of the story, but we are at the same time. We want to contribute to the healing."

Dialogue encouraged by interfaith events empowers New Yorkers, said the Rev. Chloe Breyer, executive director of the Interfaith Center of New York.

"Let us not be defined as victims," she said.