A Passion to Serve Born from the Destruction of 9/11
By: Alexandra Kudukis
September 11, 2001, a day eternally engraved in the hearts of every American.
No matter where we were, and what we were doing, we all remember dropping everything, and being transfixed, watching with horror the devastation unfolding before our eyes. Pure shock, pain and suffering followed; submerging our hearts.
Thousands of miles away sat a ten-year old boy in a tiny village on the outskirts of the small country of Lithuania. The boy sat stoically, also transfixed, by the images appearing on his TV screen. The scenes of devastation, the pain, suffering and torment imprinted themselves on his heart, and changed him forever.
From that moment on, Aurimas Širvys dedicated his life to serving others.
“Others destroy, I repair and rebuild. It’s what drives me continuously. You can’t prevent people from choosing to hurt and destroy, but you can choose to help and rebuild” he stated.
We see negative reports every single day, everywhere across the globe, horrific attack after horrific attack, and devastation after devastation. This is one person who decided to use the pain and suffering he witnessed on 9/11- for good.
Aurimas grew up over the course of the last 15 years; he studied diligently, and is now an architect.
He travels around Lithuania finding tattered and broken synagogues and churches and helps to repair them, sharing their stories and restored beauty with others, using his now finely honed talents.
There is good in all things woven into the worst, if we choose to seem. Aurimas used the impression the tragic events of 9/11 left on him to help his people and his country. Born in 1991, in the small city of Obeliai, in the district of Rokiskis, from the first time he picked up a pencil he loved to draw and sketch. With his mother’s encouragement he applied and was accepted to art school. Up to the age 10, he considered many professions including archeology, biology, even paleontology.
All that changed for Aurimas on September 11, 2001. He returned home from school, and turned on the TV, his normal routine, expecting to watch the Simpsons at that time. As the first graphic images flashed in front of his eyes, he felt confused, not completely comprehending what he was witnessing. He turned the channel only to learn that on this day, all the channels were showing what had had just occurred in New York City. “At first, I simply didn’t understand, I was only in the 4th grade, it was just too much for me,” However, as he continued to watch, he became transfixed. The images drew him in. “I had never seen devastation of that magnitude. All I could do with the intense emotions I was experiencing was to draw. I sketched the towers with the American flag in front, the best job my shaky and overwhelmed ten year- old hands could manage. The images, the screams, the terror burned right though me. I still have that picture, I keep it to remind me of why I do my work.”
From that day forward, a desire to help and repair was born in him. “As I grew, I began to explore, and to seek. I wandered throughout the Lithuanian countryside on my bicycle; I looked at things differently, with a new perspective. I became completely absorbed by the history of Lithuania’s architecture. All of it, the broken bridges, the buildings, the roofs with holes, some even entirely crumbling into the ground. I wanted to help; to repair all I saw.” He studied diligently and was accepted to and eventually graduated from the Vilnius Art Academy.
“My work repairing the synagogues and churches began while I was in my second year of study. I began to work at a museum, while employed there I was asked to participate in a trip to Byelorussia.” He visited a synagogue there that needed repairs, assisting with 3D measurements. The beauty of the architecture took him in and the experience drove him to learn more, and with subsequent research he began to understand how much was lost in Lithuania. Inspired by what he learned, he created the 3D exhibition “Gone and Disappearing- The History of Wooden Synagogues in Lithuania”.
Aurimas is currently enrolled in a Masters degree program at the university and is considering a doctorate program; he plans on creating more exhibitions in the future that he will share with the public. He has an upcoming project starting in 2017 involving Lutheran churches and subsequently one with Catholic churches in Lithuania.
Aurimas Širvys- a man using tragedy in a positive way to share, help, to heal, and to restore his homeland’s rich and disappearing history.