One of Russia’s pre-eminent sculptors, Mikhail Shemyakin, and one of Russia’s brightest ballet artists, Nikolay Tsiskaridze, have recalled their memories of the 9/11 tragedy in the light of the 10-year anniversary of the attacks.
The creator of The Children – Victims of Adult Vices, a cutting-edge monument in Moscow, Shemyakin told RT he was actually supposed to be in the city of his dreams, New York, when the tragedy occurred.
“9/11 is the day that we will never forget. I’ve been living in New York for years; my home used to be not far from the twin towers. But it so happened that on that very day I was at the Moscow Kremlin, where I had a meeting with Igor Sechin [the then-deputy chief of Putin’s administration]. When we entered his office, his TV set was switched on, but the sound was cut off. While discussing art, I looked at the screen from time to time. Suddenly I saw the towers destroyed and said that it was either a film or something had just happened in New York. It looked terrifying. Sechin looked at the screen and said, ‘Oh it’s just another American thriller!’ And so we went on talking. An hour later when I came back to my hotel, I saw a crowd of foreigners, including my American wife, in tears, all watching live television footage of the ruined towers and I realized that what I had seen before was the terrible reality,” the artist said.
The unconventional artist believes that the city has stopped being a safety haven once and for all.
“I think that not only the conscience of the New Yorkers, but the conscience of the Americans has changed after 9/11. Back in 1975, when I came to New York for the first time from Paris, where I had been living, I immediately fell in love with the city. I realized that that’s where I wanted to live, that it’s important for my art, for myself. I felt the power of the city’s rhythm, its beauty, the fusion of old and ultra-modern architecture. I still regard New York as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, although my favorite places are St. Petersburg, Venice and Rome. But back then New York gave you a feeling of enormous security. First of all, it was a different continent. It was lit by its signature phenomenal blue sky, which you won’t find anywhere else. It had this powerful energy, as well as people beaming with optimism…. Briefly, it was a new world! After 9/11 the feeling of security has broken into pieces once and forever. The tragedy not only took the lives of thousands of people, it also took away the notion of peace of the giant city.”
Nikolay Tsiskaridze has zigzagged the world with the Bolshoi Theater and been a regular in the Big Apple. The dancer told RT he could not believe his eyes when he saw the city in ruins.
“I remember the day very well, because I actually came back from New York on the eve, on the 8th or 9th of September. To tell the truth, American security officers working in airports are always getting on my nerves. For some reason, they always see some kind of a threat in me, a person who they have to examine most thoroughly. So while I was queuing up to be screened, there was a bunch of people ahead of me. When I looked at them, I thought I’d definitely examine them if it was my job. I then thought, ‘Hey, why doesn’t anybody check them?’ It was clear to me that if somebody would smuggle anything on board, it was going to be them… Two days later I had dinner at home, watching the TV after work. It was a live transmission, after the first plane had crashed and the other not yet. While watching this news report, I caught myself thinking, ‘Gosh, it looks awful. What a terribly silly Hollywood film they have made in America. When will they stop shooting New York going under water, burning or in ruin?’ I thought. That’s when I realized that it wasn’t a show, but a reality,” the ballet star recalled.