I hope you’ll forgive me for skipping Friday Favorites this week, but I need to write about this. Thanks for understanding.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was getting the kids ready for school. Codi was entering second grade and it was Tucker’s first day of kindergarten. My husband was at work at the police station when he called me. All he said was “Turn on the TV.” I assumed something had happened at work, so I asked him which channel. His reply was “Any channel.” That’s when my heart started to race. I watched, along with the rest of America and the world, as everything changed forever.
I took the kids to school, and sat through kindergarten orientation in Tucker’s classroom. All of the adults just kept looking at each other, none of us really absorbing how to send in lunch money or when the first class party would be. When I left, the school was in lock-down. I’ve never wanted so badly to grab my kids and run.
Codi’s birthday is on September 12th, so I had to go do some birthday shopping after I left the school. It was surreal. There was a moment of silence called out over the loudspeaker in one store. Although, aside from the occasional conversation about what happened and the hushed, terrified questions about what may yet happen, there wasn’t much noise to silence.
If you happen to be or know a police family, you know that when a crisis happens they are needed elsewhere. There is a small airport and a train track in the town my husband works in, so they were on high alert in the days after 9-11, which meant he worked a lot. We kept the kids schedules as regular as possible, so they were going to school and their other activities. That left me and the television. I watched too much of it, but I was afraid something else would happen and I wouldn’t know. I needed something else to do.
I don’t remember how I found out about the website, but sometime in the days or weeks following 9-11, I stumbled on the United in Memory 9-11 Memorial Quilt project. They were looking for quilters to sew blocks to honor and remember all of the victims from that day.
I was a brand-new quilter, and there were people with far more experience and skill than I had participating, but I hoped they would accept me anyway and I sent an email offering to help. I was assigned two blocks.
I asked for a police officer if there were any unassigned, so I was given Officer John William Perry. He was an NYPD officer and in the New York National Guard. It was his last day on the job, and he was turning in his badge when the towers went down and he ran back to help. I chose, as many other quilters did, to make his block in red, white and blue.
I was also assigned Dr. Norma Lang Steuerle. She was a clinical psychologist and was aboard Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon. A friend remembering her said she was probably calming everyone else on the plane when it happened. I chose the pattern for her quilt to represent herself, her husband and two daughters.
Working on those squares was therapeutic. It felt good to be doing something positive and productive. By the time I was finished, I felt like I knew Officer Perry and Dr. Steuerle. Or, more accurately, I wished I had.
Once the blocks were all sent in, they were assembled into 142 panels, covering 16,000 square feet. In the end, over 3,000 volunteers from 17 countries participated. It took 11 months to finish, then began touring the country. It will be shown on Staten Island in New York this weekend.
As the 10-year anniversary of September 11th approaches, I hope you’ll hug your family a little closer, do something good for someone else, and remember those who are no longer with us. We are better than what happened to us, and remembering the day with kind deeds is the ultimate proof.