Railroad cars are often popular targets for graffiti artists who sneak into train yards at night and leave their vivid tags under cover of darkness.
But to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, artists from all over the country are coming to Riverhead to spray-paint a pair of historic LIRR cars. And they’ll do so with the blessing of the Railroad Museum of Long Island – the owner of the cars.
The museum is hosting an event on Sunday presented by Miracles Every Day, a charitable organization founded by Medford artist Patrick Voorhees. The event takes place on Sunday from 8 a.m. until noon and will feature speakers, prayer, patriotic music, a 21-gun salute and street art by more than two dozen artists on the two railroad cars and large 8-foot-high canvases that together will stretch about 100 feet long.
The event is the brainchild of Voorhees, who has spent the past five months recruiting artists from across the country to paint the gigantic mural memorializing the World Trade Center terror attacks and those who lost their lives on that dark day.
Voorhees calls himself a patriot who has “always had a heart for the loss” of 9/11. In the past 15 years, he has paid tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks by writing poems and songs and painting several murals about the tragedy.
Voorhees has a history of confronting personal hardships with action. When his son was diagnosed with diabetes, he started the non-profit Miracles Every Day to raise money for research into the disease. And Miracles Every Day is the inspiration behind the work that has gone into organizing Sunday’s event.
Earlier this year, Voorhees pitched the idea to the Railroad Museum’s president, Don Fisher. Fisher agreed to allow the artists to decorate two of the museum’s historic cars — a Pullman Standard P72 Long Island Rail Road coach and a Pennsylvania Railroad baggage-mail car with a post office on it.
For Fisher, it was a match made in heaven: The museum had planned to paint the cars anyway, and now he had artists to do the work for a meaningful cause.
Voorhees immediately began calling artist friends to ask them to donate time to his charity. So many agreed to help – 30 of them in fact, one coming all the way from Hawaii – that he soon realized he had more artists than car space to paint.
But too many artists turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Some of the painters will now work on the 8-by-100 foot canvas mural with a patriotic theme. The mural sections will be donated to various institutions including the Northport VA Medical Center and a cancer center associated with World Trade Center victims.
“That veterans and survivors of the attacks will get to see a piece of the memorial is the cherry on top,” Voorhees said.
Voorhees said he placed an ad on Craigslist hoping to find a singer willing to donate time to sing the National Anthem at the ceremony. He had “such a proud, patriotic moment” when he got several volunteers – some of whom had sung at baseball stadiums and other large venues.
Many businesses have also donated materials or funds to Miracles Every Day to help offset the cost of the project and Sunday’s event, dubbed “Remember M.E.”
Eastern Scaffolding donated the platforms the artists will use to reach high on the railroad cars. Mickey’s Carting contributed a 10-yard dumpster which will be painted red, white and blue for the event. Sherwin Williams donated hundreds of dollars of aerosol paint and drop cloths. Riverhead Building Supply donated dozens of cans of spray paint. Vines and Hops donated a stage. Goldberg’s Bagels donated breakfast for the artists. The T-Shirt Guy in Mount Sinai donated the shirts. Hyatt Place in Riverhead gave the group “deep discounts” on rooms for the artists who need overnight accommodations.
Other business that came through included Chick-Fil-A, Revco Lighting and Electric, Lowes, Home Depot, Deep Impact Cesspools, 3Ts Cesspools, Guitar Center and Specialized Insurance. Even portable toilet facilities were donated for the day by Johnny Comfort.
“People have been great,” Voorhees said.
Though there is no plan for exactly how the mural will turn out– “You have to let artists be creative,” Voorhees said – it will definitely feature an illustration of the New York City skyline, the Statue of Liberty and other iconic and patriotic images.
“What’s important is it’s all about a celebration of life,” said Voorhees.
Editor’s note: The date and time of the event have been added to the article.