Local group of military, Sept. 11 widows use painting to cope with loss

Using paint therapy, cooking classes and intimate conversations, members of Project Heart-to-Heart are able to help each other cope with unspeakable loss.

ORANGE PARK, Fla. — The program is run by the nonprofit organization Tuesday’s Children, which provides support for military widows and widows of Sept. 11 victims.

Orange Park resident Shannon Thorp recently joined the group.

Thorp's husband, Army Spc. Trent Thorp, was a father of two and had served in Afghanistan before returning to the U.S. where he was stationed in Washington state.

Thorp was killed in a shooting with police in 2011.

“He was an exceptional soldier,” Thorp said. “A great father. Great husband.”

Thorp said Tuesday’s Children has given her new hope to keep moving forward.

"It's a very small group of people that we know don't cast any judgment," Thorp said. "They relate unconsciously."

Thorp said the greatest benefit for her has been learning from women who have been coping with their grief for a much longer period of time – women like Andrea Garbarini. 

“We have supported each other through the years and I really don’t know how I would have done it without them,” Garbarini said.

Garbarini's husband, New York Fire Department Lt. Charles Garbarini, was a first responder with Engine 23 in Manhattan on Sept. 11. 

Garbarini didn’t survive.

"They ran towards what everybody was running away from,” Garbarini said.

"You can see hope," Thorp said. "You're going to turn out OK and their kids are great. The kids are wonderful."

Tuesday’s Children also provides Project Common Bond, which gives support to children who have lost parents.

"My son Phillip has participated for the last three years, and what it does is it brings together children from all around the world that are victims of terrorism," Garbarini said.

Project Common Bond was initiated by children of Sept. 11 victims.

“They came to us and said we want to talk to others in the world who have been impacted by the same thing as us,” Director of Programs for Tuesday’s Children Diana DeClemente said.