September 11th, 16 Years Ago

An Artist Remembers by Thomas Foster Hermansader

The Emblem of Strength—New York CityThe Emblem of Strength—New York City

September 11, 2001. Most mornings, I wake up and usually head up to my studio to paint. On the morning of September 11th, I was working on a painting in my studio located on the third floor of the mansion in Columbia, Pennsylvania where I live and work and operate  a bed and breakfast. The studio is well-lit and roomy, filled with natural light and containing a large table and easel and my paints.
I thought to myself, what a great day to paint—blue skies, calm and peaceful. Moments later, I heard the news, that a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. My daughter lived in Staten Island and I immediately thought of her.

What seemed like minutes later, the second plane hit the other tower. I knew it was not an accident and America was under attack. I thought the worst…that this was the beginning of a nuclear war.
I left my studio and immediately tried to call Alyssa, who was working for a law firm at 75 Broad Street. More news came pouring in and the pictures were horrific. I remember how helpless I felt. I kept calling Alyssa, but to no avail.
It was hours later, around 4:00 pm, I got a call from Alyssa. When I heard her voice, I remember crying and kneeling on my kitchen floor and thanking God she was alive.
She told me that she had been on the 26th floor of her building, felt the building shake and looked outside to witness a rain of white debris. She was alerted of the attacks, met with others in her lobby and decided to make a run for it to the Staten Island Ferry. What she saw along the way was too terrible to describe. Once on the over-loaded ferry, she was en route to Staten Island to see her children.

One of my treasured memories was presenting  a framed print to Mayor Rudy Giuliani

One of my treasured memories was presenting
a framed print to Mayor Rudy Giuliani

The following day I thought to myself: What can I do to help all those people who lost their lives and their families? My answer was clear—create a painting of the Twin Towers with a larger than life American flag in the background in recognition of the courageous spirit that so many exemplified after the attacks.
My first contact was to my Lancaster County friend, Major Carl Schoch, formerly the CEO of the Salvation Army in New York City. He put me in touch with a variety of people and in early October, I found myself at Ground Zero. While there, I was invited to have lunch with people from the Salvation Army and witnessed police officers, firemen and workers coming into a large tent, a somber and humbling experience. I took hundreds of photographs of Battery Park City. I scoured through pictures from books and the internet.
Now it was time to get down to business—paint, paint, paint. The painting took hundreds of hours—I believe, close to 500 hours.
Every window in every building is exact in size and location and on all the floors of the many skyscrapers! Even the trees are exact in size and in number!
From the original painting, I had 1,045 offset prints made—95 artist proofs, 950 signed and numbered. All 95 A/P’s were sold within hours of being published. I donated one-half of the sales to the Salvation Army which amounted to over $20,000.
In my journey, I presented many prints to many people including Pennsylvania Governor’s Mark Schweiker and former Philadelphia Mayor Edward G. Rendell.
In the spring of 2002, Mayor Giuliani spoke to the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry and someone had seen an article in the local paper about my painting and asked me to present him with a print. When I presented it to him he was curious about how I came about doing the painting and said he enjoyed photography himself and could appreciate all the work that went into making the painting.
In my lifetime, I have done hundreds of commissions of people, their homes, animals and  boats.  I still take on a few commissions per year.  The Emblem of Strength—New York City original painting is for sale. Before the bed and breakfast became a bed and breakfast, it was my home, studio and art gallery and filled with lots of art works, both mine and other artists,’ including my dad’s. It took me about two years to transform it from an art gallery to a bed and breakfast, and somehow, I still found time to paint.My website is (


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *