PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The tiles you walk by in downtown Providence were created by thousands of hands when the pain of 9 / 11 was still fresh, but they will soon be on the move in a massive operation that’s expected to preserve them.
The colorful and creative squares are the epitome of art from tragedy. In the months after the attacks, about 12,000 Rhode Islanders went to work putting their emotions on ceramic.
It’s now 13 years since the tiles went up to form the Wall of Hope in the tunnel near Waterplace Park and on the exterior of the Providence Journal building. But.it is still one-of-a- kind according to the executive director of the organization that maintains the memorial, Rhode Island for Community and Justice.
“Rhode Island is the only state where over 11,000 people contributed to a memorial like this,” Toby Ayers said. “Each one with their own hands painting something that was in their heart that was important to them.”
But a number of sources say the tiles on the Providence Journal building have to move because the new owners are making changes to the first floor.
Weather, including flooding, is taking a bite out of the mosaic near Waterplace Park.
“Because you’ve got the rust here,” Ayers said, pointing to the bottom of the metal frames that hold the tiles in the tunnel. “It’s from years of flooding, years of flooding. The tiles need to be inside. They really need to be inside.”
But where and how? Right now, her organization is considering three new locations, and trying to raise enough money to move the 3,000 square feet of tiles that weigh thousands of pounds.
“You don’t see me on my worst days,” Ayers said when we mentioned that she seemed calm for someone who was responsible for moving close to 12,000 tile. “It’s a big job. I trust that people will contribute and keep it whole. I think it’s important to people and Rhode Islanders step up. That’s what we do.”
The goal is to move the tiles by 9 / 11 of 2016, but Ayers estimates about $35,000 is needed to get it done.
“Even if you didn’t create one of them, this tells us about the kind of world we really want to live in, the kind of world we have to live in,” Ayers said. “We look at what happened on 9 / 11 and it devastated us. And the response that we can have is either a response of revenge and hatred or we can say we want to build a better world.”Send your story ideas to Waltat email@example.com and follow us on Twitter: @StreetStories12 and @wbuteau.