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That shirt held the dust, dirt, and ash that had once been part of the lives of those who were at the World Trade Center. I felt so many things scrubbing that shirt: terror, fear, guilt, sadness, and a sense of relief that he was home and safe. That one simple object, a shirt, could be loaded with so much meaning awed me, and the moment haunted me for months. – Colleen Mulrenan MacFarlane
When Colleen Mulrenan’s father walked through the door of his home on September 13, 2001, he was coated in ash and grime. His white officer’s shirt was tinged with gray and stained red and blue where sweat had caused the dye of his suspenders to run. FDNY Deputy Chief James F. Mulrenan had responded to the attack at the World Trade Center two days earlier. Among those awaiting his arrival home was Colleen, then a graduate art student. Relieved to see her father, she attempted to wash the soot and dye from his shirt so he could return to Ground Zero after a few hours of rest. As Colleen methodically scrubbed, she knew that she was not only washing a shirt soiled by labor, but also symbolically attempting to wash away the pain and sadness of 9/11. That realization inspired her to film herself repeating that gesture. For the video’s soundtrack, Colleen interspersed radio transmissions broadcast over FDNY channels in the days of search and rescue at Ground Zero with recordings of neighbors singing outside her father’s firehouse.
The video captures September 13, 2001, the day Colleen Mulrenan’s father returned home after working around-the-clock at Ground Zero. James F. Mulrenan was a deputy chief of the New York City Fire Department on September 11. The video focuses on Colleen’s hands washing her father’s shirt. The soundtrack includes radio transmissions from Ground Zero.
Colleen Mulrenan studied 3-D animation and electronic arts, as well as photography and video. After earning a Master of Fine Arts from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and pursuing a career in the arts, Mulrenan changed paths and became an elementary school teacher. daughter, sept. 13, was inspired by her father’s service as a firefighter and rescue and recovery worker at Ground Zero. The video was shown publicly in 2002 at riverrun, an outdoor film festival in lower Manhattan.