By Evan Triantafilidis
A mural honoring three local residents killed in the 9/11 attacks has been given new life with a fresh coat of paint.
The faces of Marcello Matricciano, Edward Lehman and James Cartier can be seen on the wall of N&R Deli at the corner of 25th Avenue and 77th Street in East Elmhurst.
Originally painted in 2015 by nonprofit group Groundswell, a restoration process was started after funding was secured by the Queens Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber president and CEO Thomas Grech said he noticed the mural was in need of a touch-up during one of his many breakfast trips to the deli. The chamber’s headquarters is located not far away.
“One day in July, the phone started ringing when I was getting my eggs,” said Grech. “I went out to answer the phone and I looked up at this wall. For those of you who haven’t seen it lately, it was starting to peel.”
Soon after, local artists Benny Guerra and Carlo Nieva began scraping and peeling off the old paint that had been weathered and beaten over the past six years.
“We tried to save as much of the original paint as possible,” said Guerra. “By the time we peeled all of it off, about 60 percent of the mural needed attention.”
The artists referenced photographs taken from the mural’s original dedication, applying a coat of primer and color-matching the old and new paint.
The 16-by-40-foot mural will soon be given another clear coat to extend its life even further.
“My favorite part is the integration of the old World Trade Center towers with the Freedom Tower,” said Nieva. “They are patriots.”
Deputy Chief Kevin Williams of the NYPD extended his thoughts to the families of the 9/11 victims who were in attendance for the rededication of the mural.
“I think this is symbolic of the American spirit and the New York spirit,” said Williams. “Over the years, this mural may have been battered and worn, but same thing as that day. We came back, made it stronger, and made our country better.”
John Cartier, the brother of one of the victims honored in the mural, expressed his gratitude for all those involved in restoring the mural. He remembers his brother, who died at 26 years old, as full of life and always having something funny to say.
“I think it’s important as family members to recognize all of you who have carried us through a time of darkness,” said Cartier. “All of you in this neighborhood were the light. You guys gave us hope to continue forward.”