Senior Sam Chick remembers that day in second grade when she walked into her classroom and found her teacher crying. It was Sept. 11, 2001.

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The Porter-Gaud School student felt scared and confused, as did many of her classmates. So art teacher Laura Orvin decided they would paint a mural to turn those negative emotions into positive expressions.

More than 300 first- through fifth-graders worked on the project, and Orvin shipped it off to New York City as a show of their love, prayers and good will. The mural hung in a Ground Zero family assistance center, but it later was rolled up, tucked in a maintenance closet, and forgotten.

An electrician happened upon it a few years ago, and now the artwork made by small hands and big hearts will be on display indefinitely at the national 9/11 Memorial Museum when it opens in September 2012. It also will be included in "Art for Heart," a compilation of artwork and poems done by children after 9/11, that will be released next month. Proceeds from the book will benefit the national 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

"I want to go see it," Chick said as she looked at the book for the first time on Monday. "It's really pretty. It was a nice gesture, and it seemed like this was a good way to show how we felt."

Orvin remembers the moment 10 years ago when she walked into a history teacher's classroom and saw the news on TV. She initially thought it was a movie, and then reality struck. Silence blanketed the entire school.

All of the private Charleston school's classes tried to help the victims or rescue efforts, and Orvin wanted to give her youngest students an outlet for their feelings.

She asked them to draw pictures representing America and patriotism, and they sketched images such as an American flag, an eagle, rescue workers and the White House. Orvin merged those onto a large canvas, and students completed the piece with brightly colored acrylic paint. Hearts lined the outer edges, and students filled those with heart-felt letters. Orvin wrote on the back that it was a gift from the Porter-Gaud lower school, and sent it away.

"It was just a very positive and uplifting mural we did," Orvin said. "When you look at it, you can't help but feel good."

She never knew what happened to it, and she left Porter-Gaud a few years later because her husband's job required them to live elsewhere. The project stood out as the most memorable she ever did, though. It was one that involved the collaboration of the entire lower school.

Orvin was living in New York City years later when she got a phone call from museum officials saying they had discovered the mural and asking whether they could hang it there. She was more than happy to give her consent.

Junior William Tutterow is one of Orvin's former students who helped create the mural as a first-grader. He remembers not understanding what was happening and having no idea what "terrorist" meant. "I'm glad we did this," he said. "I didn't really know it at the time ... but I was becoming a part of history. It's something that's going to be there forever."

Orvin's husband's job allowed her to move back to Charleston last month, and she's glad to be home and in the city where she grew up. She's found a new job at Porter-Gaud as an administrative assistant to the headmaster, and she's been sharing news of the book and mural with her former students.

She hasn't seen the mural since she sent it away 10 years ago, but she plans to do so in the future.

"I think there will be a lot of people from Charleston wanting to go up there," she said.

Tell us your 9/11 stories

The Post and Courier will publish a 12-page special section on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks that looks at their impact on Lowcountry residents.

Among the first-person stories we're seeking are:

Local people directly affected by the attacks. Did you lose a loved one? Were you at one of the sites on 9/11? Send your stories and photos to Adam Parker at

How parents discuss the attacks with their children. Have the events changed the way you talk to your kids about the world? Send your stories and photos to Shannon Brigham at

What we need: Your submissions should be 250 words or less. Include your name, city and phone number. Please send us jpeg photos, which should be at least 1,500 pixels wide and include caption information. The deadline is Thursday.

To get a copy: Pick up the special section only in the Sept. 11 print editions of The Post and Courier.

Reach Diette Courrégé at 937-5546.