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Defending the land of milk and honey

LO artist Rebecca Clark's feelings about 9 11 are as strong as ever

The great American tragedy of 9/11 happened 10 years ago. For Rebecca Clark it's like it happened yesterday.

The strong feelings that filled all Americans on that day have never faded away for Clark, a highly successful artist who lives in Lake Oswego. She was there that day in New York City when the two terrorist-piloted planes crashed into the towers of the World Trade Center.

In fact, Clark just missed becoming a victim. Indeed, her lungs were filled with the horrible toxic smoke that left her sick for a long time.

However, because of the kind of person she is, the impact of 9/11 has never diminished for Clark. It left her with a mission for her life, as an artist and an American.

'I believe America is a God-blessed country and people,' Clark said. 'Our freedom principle is at a point where everyone needs to make a contribution in some way. I want to use my God-given talents and also support all of the men and women who serve - soldiers, police and firefighters. Not just them but their families, too.

'I take war and terror seriously, and 9/11 made me re-evaluate my priorities - God, country, the people who lead and the people who serve.'

Clark is a small-town girl who made good in the big city. She grew up in Lake Oswego and pretty much lived a 'Happy Days'existence. She went to Lake Oswego High School, danced on the dance team, and marched in parades down A Avenue.

'Lake Oswego is like a slice of the American pie,' Clark said with a big smile.

But her dreams of becoming an artist led her to New York City, where she was educated and trained and went on to careers as a model, media consultant and fine artist. Clark's life in the Big Apple was busy, exciting and rewarding, but she held on to her small town values of patriotism and belief in God.

For Clark, the Tuesday of Sept. 11, 2001, was supposed to be another go-go day in NYC. She was set to take care of some business right next to the World Trade Center.

'I was going to go to the Twin Towers,' Clark said. 'Then I got an inclination not to go. I even got an inclination to pray, which was very unusual. I thought I would try to beat the rush hour and go back to sleep.'

When Clark woke up, her life, and America, would never be the same.

'Phones were ringing off the hook just before the second plane hit the second tower,' Clark said. 'I immediately knew America was under attack. I had concerns that something like this could happen when the World Trade Center was first bombed in 1993. I had a sense that America was vulnerable.

'I knew America would never be the same ever. I knew we would have to fight to keep our freedom.'

But first Clark had to survive.

'It was like an Armageddon movie,' she said. 'There were strong, toxic fumes. Manhattan is a very small island, and I had walked the entire length of it several times. There was so much smoke I thought my building was on fire.

'I thought it was the beginning of a scorched-earth attack and that the whole city was being bombed. As far as I knew, I was going to die. I looked outside and I saw men in pinstriped suits carrying their briefcases and covered with ash and all looking at each other. It was like a slow motion movie. I thought I should get some water and food and see what would happen next.'

The physical effects Clark suffered were bad enough. She inhaled enough toxic smoke to make her ill for six months, although she points out, 'There are firefighters today whose lungs are filled with rocks and splinters.'

Clark's spirit took an even worse beating.

'I felt a profound sadness that America as I knew it would never be the same,' she said. 'I had a sense of being violated.'

After convalescing on the West Coast, though, Clark was ready to fight back. She was focused. Her love for her country was stronger than ever.

'This is the land of milk and honey,' Clark said. 'There is nowhere else where we can live our dreams if we are willing to dedicate ourselves and work for it as an entrepreneur and artist.

'There are bad guys out there who want to destroy us. There are countries where you get beheaded for praying or reading a Bible and it's happening now. We have got to fight to defend what we've got - fresh water, food, free speech, freedom of religion - and to help others who are oppressed.'

In her post 9/11 life, Clark flourished as an artist. In this area she is perhaps best known for her magnificent 18-foot high sculpture 'Battling Stallions' in West Linn. However, she has even bigger projects planned.

'I am so humbled that I've been chosen as the official artist for the 41st Infantry Division Association,' Clark said. 'I will be doing the statue of the soldiers who fought in the Pacific in World War II (part of the Fighting Jungleers Fine Art Series) which will be placed at the new Armed Forces Reserve Center in Clackamas.

'I want my artistic life to be about honoring God, country and heroes. This is the type of art I'm committed to for the rest of my life.'

She added, 'I would like there to be another Greatest Generation. America is exceptional.'

Of course, Clark joined millions of Americans this past weekend observing the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

'I thanked every policeman and woman and firefighter that I could,' she said. 'I also got on my knees and prayed to God.'

For more about Rebecca Clark and her artwork go to www.rebeccaaclark.com .