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Tin flowers / TwIN tOWERS

PBS
"Reading Rainbow" host LeVar Burton takes a serious tone in this 9/11-themed episode from 2002.
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- While many in the sync community have pointed to cinematic “predictions” regarding the September 11, 2001 attacks, I’ve noticed that little has been said about hints in the literary community.

I only say this because the other day I happened upon an episode of Reading Rainbow, presumably airing in 2002. It was a somber episode, focusing on the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers and the effects it had on the Tribeca neighborhood PS 234 school at 292 Greenwich Street in Manhattan, essentially in the shadow of the towers.

Host LeVar Burton (who played Geordi LaForge on Star Trek: The Next Generation) begins by noting how it is a pleasant day in New York in the neighborhood near where the Twin Towers once stood. And how since that attack, much has been done to make the area beautiful again.

“People are working hard to put their neighborhood and lives back together,” Burton tells the Reading Rainbow audience. “They’re focusing on the future. And they are determined to fill that future with hope.”

The children of PS 234 talk to Burton about watching the Twin Towers in flames, smoke pouring out, with one child saying, “I kept saying it’s going to fall down,” despite those around him disagreeing, saying the towers would not collapse.

And yet they did just that in a horrific event that has forever scarred the psyche of Americans and many around the world.

After talking with the children who were moved out of PS 234 and to a temporary school site, they talk about books children might want to read. One of the books read was The Tin Forest by Helen Ward and illustrated by Wayne Anderson.

The book (meant for children between the ages of 6 and 8) is read by actor Jeff Bridges, with Burton introducing the book thusly: “Here’s a book that’s all about a man who lives in a dark and gloomy place, which is how this neighborhood seemed right after the tragedy.”

Bridges, in his calm, Dude-like voice, reads: “In the house lived an old man. Every day he tried to clear away the garbage, sifting and sorting, burning and burying.”

This, of course, reminded me of the huge task of cleaning and sifting through the debris left by the destruction of the North and South Tower and Building 7 (The Salomon Brothers building, nearby).  The rubble, notes this New York Post story from 2015, suggests the Fresh KIlls landfill where a lot of debris ended up is "haunted."

The Tin Forest is a charming book, about an old man who lives in a “Tin Forest,” a place of perpetual rain and sharp edges. The man dreams of an actual jungle, with jungle cats and such, a prettier, less gray and gloomy environment, just as lower Manhattan was in the days and weeks after 9/11.

“(The) man in The Tin Forest turned a gray wasteland into a beautiful forest,” Burton says. “And just as he brought life into a place that was empty, so too have the people in this neighborhood have done after September 11th.”

"The man" would be impressed with how lower Manhattan came back in the years since 9/11, with a cleaner, shinier appearance and the rising of One World Trade Center. From Twin Towers to a Lone Tower, not unlike the one in Tulsa, linking Oklahoma to New York City in a way.

I began to think that this book was chosen because the writer was responding to the twisted metal – the “tin forest” – from the remains of the Twin Towers and that the bad weather was a stand-in for the toxic dust cloud that hung over the city after the collapse of the towers. And that it was a book to comfort the children who read it – children scarred by the 9/11 event.

But as I researched it, I realized that The Tin Forest was actually published by Dutton on Sept. 1, 2001 and reviewed by Kirkus Reviews on Aug. 1, 2001. It was as if the author (unwittingly) anticipated this event that so synced with so many creative people, particularly in TV and film, as we noted above.

Strangely, when I decided to reference "tin flowers" in the title of this Dust Devil Dreams post, I was surprised that phrase did not appear in the book, even though I was convinced it had. It was very, very weird as I scoured the pages of the book. And while "tin flowers" are featured in the illustrations, the words "tin flowers" do not appear.

So, while I had been thinking about that odd Reading Rainbow episode, I happened upon the Dick Clark-hosted The (New) $25,000 Pyramid on the Game Show Network (which was on Stranger Things?). I never watch that show, nor that channel. But I felt compelled to stop on it because I noticed actress Vicki Lawrence on it (a friend of mine appeared with her on Win, Lose or Draw in 1988). And believe it or not, LeVar Burton was a guest as well! It was then that I sensed I was supposed to write about The Tin Forest, especially as some new 9/11 sync videos and such have been coming up of late.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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