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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, July 21, 2002

'Heroes' art show to benefit N.Y., Maui

By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Staff Writer

 •  Here’s to the Heroes

Art show and sale benefits Maui Firefighters Relief Association and families of 10 firefighters lost at the World Trade Center from Engine 33, Ladder 9

Sept. 11-15, Ka‘ahumanu Center, Kahului, Maui

Opening reception: 6 p.m. Sept. 11; $25 donation includes p¨p¨ and dessert; cash wine bar

Information, donations: Bonnie Friedman, (808) 242-8383; e-mail info@herestotheheroes.com; Web site: herestotheheroes.com

"Maui is my home. New York is my hometown." So says publicist Bonnie Friedman, who hasn't been able to stop thinking about that hometown since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

Having just returned to Maui on Sept. 6, after a few months living in the East, Friedman didn't even have a television in her Kula home when a friend phoned her with the news. She spent the whole long, terrible day listening to the radio and transmitting messages between family members who couldn't reach each other — in Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and Duchess County — but could somehow get through to Maui.

Afterward, though relieved that all her relatives were accounted for, she, like so many others, kept asking herself, "What can I do?"

In a conversation with one of her clients, Olinda artist Jan Kasprzycki, an idea emerged: an art show, "Here's to the Heroes," to be held on Maui on the anniversary of the attacks, benefiting the children of firefighters in New York and on Maui, as well. It was, Kasprzycki said, a "fine idea" and he promised one of his five-figure canvases if the effort got off the ground.

True to his word, he has since not only donated a work, but painted another expressly for the event, a painting of two, towering red ti leaf plants, which will be the show's centerpiece.

But Friedman, who had never curated a show, wasn't quite sure what to do next.

Then, waiting for a flight to New York in December, she saw a New York firefighter in dress uniform in a departure lounge at the Los Angeles airport. She wanted to rush up to the stranger and thank him, but decided to respect his privacy.

But later, when a seat in first class inexplicably remained open next to her, she was delighted when a flight attendant, obviously thinking just what Friedman was thinking, went back into coach and invited the young man to come forward. "This is livin'," he said, dropping into his seat and introducing himself.

The firefighter, Sal Princiotta, 38, explained that he and four other firefighters had been cycling across the country to thank America for the country's support. He was making a quick trip back to New York for a memorial service for his uncle, Battalion Chief Raymond Downey, who had been lost at the World Trade Center, but planned to return to finish the bicycle journey. (Downey was well known for having led the New York team that responded to the Oklahoma City federal building bombing in April 1995.)

She learned that Princiotta's "house," Engine 33, Ladder 9 on Great Jones Street, had lost 10 men on Sept. 11. He had spent a month at the site the firefighters called "the pile," hoping to find his uncle's body; he was worried about some of his co-workers, who still weren't ready to leave the site, he said.

At the airport in New York, Friedman gave her new friend a box of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, a copy of the Lord's Prayer in Hawaiian that a hula sister had given her, and a maile lei she had planned to take to the World Trade Center site.

It was what she could do at the time, she recalls, but it wasn't enough.

She knew it was time to dust off that "fine idea."

Back on Maui, she recruited a co-curator, interior designer Persis Hataria, formed a committee, networked, called in some favors and is delighted to say that, because of Maui's generosity, they expect 100 percent of the net proceeds from the art sale to go toward an endowment to provide education for the children of the 10 lost from Great Jones Street, as well as to the Maui Firefighters Relief Fund. More than 70 artists have agreed to donate works, and a pupu party will kick off the weeklong sale.

"We're building a long bridge of aloha between the two islands, Maui and Manhattan," Friedman said. Their connection at Engine 33, Ladder 9, Dan Rowan, and two others from the company will visit the Valley Isle to see the show after Sept. 11 memorial services in New York.