After experiencing the devastating events of Sept. 11, 2001, Roosevelt Middle School art teacher Sally McPartlin knew that her fifth-grade students would be facing many thoughts and emotions indescribable by words alone. So during her class that week, she encouraged her students to create these art collages. Knowing the rich story they tell and the history they captured that day, McPartlin kept these art pieces until 2018 when she donated them to the Oak Park River Forest Museum.

For those young students on the unforgettable day 20 years ago, it became a “once-in-a-generation” moment. For America, the thoughts, emotions, and actions that followed were momentous — from search-and-rescues to a declaration of war. Now as the U.S. declares the end of the war that began 20 years ago, we continue to witness the impact of issues that arose from the ashes on 9/11.

The simple words shared on these collages speak volumes for what was felt not just by River Forest’s fifth-graders but by the nation on Sept. 11: “tragedy,” “anger,” and “for what reason?” But also, “where there is terror, we stand together,” “stay strong,” and “united we stand.”

These art pieces are on display now through September at Oak Park River Forest Museum, 129 Lake St. in Oak Park. Open Wed.-Sat., 1-5pm. More info at

Rachel Berlinski

Operations manager

Oak Park River Forest Museum

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