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Memory Quilt

September 11, 2003

Last week, I completed the memory quilt I first mentioned way back at the beginning of January. The letter I mailed that morning was the first step in a what turned out to be the most emotional quilting experience I’ve ever had. Thanks to the United We Quilt project, I was matched with a woman whose husband died in the World Trade Center two years ago today. Over the course of several months early this year, we exchanged letters and talked on the phone. She shared memories of him, and I got a sense of what who he was and what to try and incorporate into the quilt.

Some memory quilts use pieces cut from clothing and some use images transferred from photographs, but this one uses only symbols and fabric motifs to convey the spirit of the person being remembered, which was the widow’s preference. The only photograph is on the label on the back; the image there is the one she chose for his memorial cards and had made into a pin that she wears every day in remembrance. The anchors that are prominent in the design are there primarily to honor his service in the Navy and the Reserves and the ties he had to the naval veterans group. After I’d finished it, Lil pointed out that anchors are also a symbol of hope, which I didn’t realize but which is certainly fitting.

Working on this quilt helped me think about and reflect on the attacks in a way that I hadn’t before. We were on vacation that week, and we didn’t see or hear much of the media coverage as events unfolded. Near the end of the time I was working on this quilt, I finally watched the 9/11 documentary that had been waiting on tape for me for almost a year and a half. Mr. Karen watched it soon after it aired, but I just couldn’t bring myself to look at it. I didn’t want to know; I didn’t want to remember. Now it felt like the right time for me. I’m just a little behind on the grief curve compared to a lot of people.


One year ago, I was at Disneyland and so not updating my journal. We decided to mark the anniversary of the terrorist attacks doing what we’d been doing the year before, vacationing. There was a minute of silence in the park at noon; all of the rides were shut down and people just stopped where they were. It was eerie.

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