Don Goede says images of people's last breaths haunted him following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. He experienced a recurring nightmare of rubble burying people alive.
The Colorado Springs native was living in Brooklyn when the attacks happened, and his neighborhood sat in the trajectory of debris from the Twin Towers.
"My neighborhood got pummeled with all this paper," Goede says, adding that everything was also layered with gray film.
Goede responded by collecting mangled and burned documents he found on the street, or stuck in fences: a shipping label, a World Trade Center tenant manual, an IRS form, a yellow interdepartmental envelope scrawled with "David Silver, floor 103." Remnants of daily life and business at the World Trade Center.
Everyone else he knew turned in collected paper to the police, or buried it in gardens. Goede says he wasn't told not to keep the papers, but his friends and neighbors couldn't understand why he would.
Three years later, at a space on Eighth Street in the Springs, Goede showed his paper trail in a remembrance exhibition titled Odium Theologicum — Latin for "theological hatred." He'll do it once again throughout September at Marmalade at Smokebrush, where he's now executive director.
With around 20 pieces, it includes a fish tank filled with rubble and debris that you can dig through, and two license plates Goede dug out of dumpsters abandoned in his Brooklyn neighborhood as rescue workers searched for missing people.
Proving the origination of his artifacts was important to Goede. Nearly all of the documents he gathered indicate where they came from, with names of companies and addresses in the WTC.
He's still looking for the people whose names appear on these documents, so that he can return their belongings. So far, he hasn't found anyone.
"I've been looking for Michelle, I've been looking for Thomas, I've been looking for Achille, Joe Pearson. I found Joe Pearson, but it wasn't Joe F. Pearson. That guy David Silver, I've been looking for him."
But after 10 years, Goede's ready for some closure; this will be Odium's last public showing. To help, a quintet created for the event, called Ebbing Skies, will perform musical interpretations of time, tragedy and human connection. Two of the performers lived in NYC during and after the attacks.
"This is really just a way for people to connect with that horrible day," Goede says. "It's good to remember things even though they're painful, because they are part of our consciousness, they are part of every day."
The only piece in the show that's not as the artist found it is called "Death Mask," a sculpture of a face, layered with rubble from the WTC, eyes still open. Goede's own cut hair pokes through the gray gunk, and scraps of documents, including a piece of stationery from Windows on the World, stick out like flags marking the location of bodies.
"I thought maybe if I work through that nightmare, it might go away," Goede says. "It was very cathartic for me, it was very healing."
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