Liberty Avenue Program

About Liberty Avenue Program

Within a week after the collapse of the Twin Towers, Robert Quackenbush went to work as a volunteer at community centers in lower Manhattan working with children who had lost significant people in their lives in the disaster or had seen it happening at close range (there were elementary schools in the area). He set to work with children in groups and had them makes books about “safe places” to be. The children responded to this and made books about their homes, family and friends. When they were finished, they were lifted from sadness to pride over the books they created. One boy, Ben, age 8, who had been silent and isolated from his peers after the tragedy, made a book about the destructiondistruction of the towers and what he had seen. He drew policemen and firemen going to their deaths, people falling from the windows, and the terrible explosions as the planes crashed into the buildings.

In the example below, Ben found release from pent-up feelings about the events 9/11 in a drawing (© Robert Quackenbush Studios. All rights reserved.). When Ben came to the last page of his book, he asked to leave the room. When he returned he drew the Twin Towers whole again. When he was finished, he closed his book and rejoined his friends and was happily engaged in conversation and play again.

This was the beginning of the establishment of the Liberty Avenue Program. Robert Quackenbush found people and organizations in the mental health profession who were interested in his program. The purpose of the program is to help children and teens to resolve their emotional conflicts in ways they can accept, such as working together in groups on art, writing , music, dance, and theater projects that are nurturing to the spirit and that provide the means to channel traumas into creative works. The program was extended into support groups for the firemen and policemen who were on the rescue teams at Ground Zero and to work with the children of firemen and policemen.

New Yorkers are brave. We heal quickly after disasters and get on with our work and our lives. Those children who smelled and saw the massive, smoldering pile at Ground Zero every day for weeks also saw adults coping with the horror as Lower Manhattan’s recovery swirled about them. They learned that life, indeed, does go on.

Today the Liberty Avenue Program continues to flourish at Robert Quackenbush Studios helping children and teens to find their way and realize their full potential in our uncertain world.

Liberty Avenue Program Director, Robert Quackenbush, Ph.D., leading a storytelling group