While Americans watched their televisions in horror as two planes rammed into the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001, Alexis Owen witnessed New York's twin towers topple before her very own eyes.
"I was living in Brooklyn," recalls Alexis, who now lives in Denver. "The view from my balcony was the tip of Manhattan, where the World Trade Center was. I went outside and stood there and watched it all happen. I felt helpless."
Not too helpless, however, to respond. Within days, Alexis founded the September 11 Quilt Project. The giant quilted flag, which measures 1/3 of the size of a football field, contains 3,800 panels donated from people across America and around the world. When the quilt is completed, says Alexis, it will include 7,000 panels and a message of hope.
"Our mission is to celebrate America, to celebrate its strength, and to bring people together to do that," says Alexis. "We hope people take away the sense that we're all in this together, that we are still a strong country, that people care."
Honoring New York's Heroes
When Jennifer Kaufer first learned about the World Trade Center attacks, her mind immediately raced to the innocent victims who were trapped at Ground Zero.
"Our math teacher announced that the United States was under a terrorist attack," says Jennifer, an eighth-grader at Commack Middle School, which is located just 40 miles from New York City. "I was very nervous and upset."
Like Jennifer, her classmates were deeply shaken by the tragedy. So shortly after the attacks, students across the district joined together to create a memorial quilt in honor of those who lost their lives.
For months, they worked tirelessly, crafting the quilt's more than 100 panels, which feature touching poems and artwork. Some panels pay tribute to the victims. Others salute heroes. Still others touch on themes of patriotism and hope. Eventually, several panels will be presented to the many firehouses and precincts that lost comrades.
"I feel glad that I can spread the healing to firefighters and police officers so that they know that we appreciate them," says Jennifer, whose design of the New York City skyline graces one of the quilt's panels.
Young people in Commack were not alone in their grief for those who died on September 11. Students in several New York communities, including Babylon, Sewanhaka, and Central Islip, created memorial quilts as a way of honoring the thousands of innocent victims.
Remembering the Victims
Across the country, residents in Costa Mesa, California, are busy putting the finishing touches on three quilts, which will be unveiled during upcoming one-year-anniversary ceremonies in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.
Each quilt is decorated with the images photographs that have been transferred onto fabric of the 3,000 victims. When finished, they will stretch 20 feet high and 25 feet wide. In all, 47 quilt guilds in 32 states sewed the blankets' many pieces together.
Beginning in October, after they spend a few weeks in their home communities, the quilts will go on tour, crisscrossing the country for all Americans to see.
"We wanted to try to express our solidarity with the people we lost," says Aaron Abraham, coordinator of the September 11 Memorial Quilt Project. "We wanted to put together something that would represent the loss. We wanted to remember the people."
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