It hardly seems possible 15 years have passed since the 9/11 attacks. The children born that day are now high school freshmen. Just like Pearl Harbor and the JFK assassination most people can recall what they were doing when they heard the news of the attacks.
One person stirred to action following the attacks is mother, quilter and police dispatcher Amy Sue Leasure of Prescott Valley, Arizona. She asked herself, “What can I do? The only thing I know is quilting.”
Using social media Amy puts out the call for 12 1/2” red, white, and blue quilt blocks in star patterns with the intention there would be one dedicated to every man, woman and child who lost their lives that day. The project limited each person to one block so many people would be able to participate. 20,000 quilt blocks come pouring in from across the U.S. and 22 countries. Volunteers across the U.S. seam them into panels, and long arm quilters machine quilt them before they are sent back to Amy Sue.
Sadly Amy Sue dies of cancer in July of 2002 before the project is completed. Brian Kohler picks up the project out in Oregon and the quilts have their first showing appropriately in September of 2004 in Seattle.
With so many blocks, honor banners are made for fire and police departments, canine units and first responders. Banners also remember the children who lost their lives in the plane crashes. School age children made their own blocks using crayons and markers to remember the children in their own special way. One quilt is presented to Amy Sue who started it all.
Like Arlington National Cemetery where you see the rows upon rows of granite markers, looking at all of the star blocks and reading the inscriptions, brings to life these fathers, mothers, sons and daughters who started their day most like any other to perish at the hands of terrorists.
For the 15th anniversary one would imagine the 9-11 Memorial Quilt would be on display in New York City, Washington D.C. or Somerset County, Pennsylvania, instead on 9/10 and 9/11 it is at Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne where people as far away as Chicago come to town to view it. Thanks to the extensive database I find the blocks created by Fort Wayne residents Sherron Spraggins and Veronica Singh and view their blocks.
Beverly Kuemin is now the keeper of the quilts. She along with a skeletal crew transports and hangs them. They listen to the stories of the people who view them: People who lost a relative, friend, neighbor, etc. in the attacks. People relate how someone escaped harm by not going to work that day or performed a small deed of kindness. Beverly shares with me how the canine dogs were so frustrated when they could not find people alive that later they became depressed for not being able to do their jobs. Their handlers had to play “hide and seek” with them by hiding stuff and then taking them out to search and recover it so they would regain their confidence.
The Memorial Quilt project is now a 501c (3) non-profit. The group doesn’t charge admission, rather it depends on the generosity of the people who come and view it to get the quilt from one site to another. Beverly dreams big and hopes one day it will be seen in countries around the world, eventually to find a permanent home in New York City.
For more information go to the Facebook page at: WTC Memorial Quilt Project
Other News: Visit the Fort Wayne Weavers Guild exhibition at First Presbyterian Church, downtown Fort Wayne. Gallery hours are Monday-Friday 9:00a.m.-5:00p.m., Sundays 9:30a.m.-1:00p.m., and during all theater performances. The exhibit is up through October 16.
Lois Levihn is the owner of Born Again Quilts, 4005 South Wayne Avenue. The studio/shop is an excellent resource for vintage and reproduction fabrics, and vintage quilts, tops and blocks. She can be reached at www.bornagainquilts.com or 260-515-9446.