Photo credit: Beckett Fine Art Ltd. and John Coburn, Healing Hearts Collection
Accession Number: C.2019.9.18
Dimensions: 24 in X 20 in
Dimensions (Metric): 60.96 cm X 50.8 cm
Credit Line: Gift of Canadian artist, John Coburn and Thomas G. Beckett, Beckett Fine Art Ltd.
Framed pen and ink drawing by John Coburn titled Engine 55, depicting the FDNY Engine 55 Ladder 20 firehouse; the facade of the firehouse is covered in tributes. Captain Thomas F. Toomey is depicted on the left. "Engine 55 Ladder 20 | 363 Broome St NYC" is written at the bottom. The artist's signature is on the lower right.
After watching television news coverage of the September 11, 2001, attacks at home in Toronto, artist John Coburn felt compelled to witness the devastation firsthand and to see whether his artwork might provide emotional support to the recovery effort. He arrived in the U.S. in late fall 2001 and made his way to Ground Zero, carrying a copy of a drawing he had made of the Twin Towers and the lower Manhattan skyline years earlier. The drawing warmed the hearts of personnel at the perimeter of the World Trade Center site and aided Coburn in bypassing various barricades. Using pen and ink, he sketched the valor, generosity, and warmth that he witnessed on the streets of lower Manhattan in the fall and winter following the attacks. Of special note are drawings of the wrought iron fence ringing St. Paul’s Chapel and its graveyard, as well as those of people paying their respects and leaving tributes at the fence and around Ground Zero. Coburn became friendly with many recovery workers and volunteers at the Chapel during that time.
Coburn eventually returned to Canada and resumed his life and work there. Working with partners, he published his drawings along with inspirational quotations in the form of a book titled Healing Hearts. His goal was to present a copy to the families of the nearly 3,000 people killed on September 11, 2001.
Several years later, a fire ravaged Coburn’s home, destroying many of his belongings. However, the drawings he had made in New York in 2001 and 2002 survived. Many are damaged or burned at the edges, but the subject matter of each remains clear.