for National Geographic News
She watched Flight 175 ram the north tower of the World Trade Center and, like most TV viewers, sat stunned. Minutes later, the smoldering south tower collapsed. Then word came that Flight 77 had struck the Pentagon. Then the north tower crumbled. In Pennsylvania, dust settled around the crater left by Flight 93.
Jeannie Ammermann said the tragic events of September 11, 2001, changed her life forever. The next day, fidgety, she sat at her desk at a real estate office in Naples, Florida, and jotted down ideas of what she could do for the victims' families.
Her mind flashed back to warm, childhood memories of visiting quilt shows with her grandmother and of her grandmother sewing quilts for the family. She remembered her grandmother's smile. She remembered a quilt with photos of a mother and child sewn into it and another with children painted on the fabric.
"The most inspiring thing about those quilts is that they remained in my mind and in my heart," said Ammermann. "The day after 9/11, those memories again filled my mind and I knew what I wanted to do to help the families of 9/11. I wanted to preserve the life and memory of their loved ones."
That night she began the monumental task of what has now become a 460-person, nationwide volunteer effort to construct eight quilts to commemorate the victims of 9/11.
One quilt each will be dedicated to the Fire Department of New York, New York Police Department, New York Emergency Medical Services providers, New York/New Jersey Port Authority Police Department, New York/New Jersey Port Authority Staff, Flight 93, and the Pentagon.
In addition, a 10-foot by 60-foot (3-meter by 18-meter) "Victims Quilt" will commemorate all who died as a result of the 9/11 tragedy, including World Trade Center and Pentagon employees, police, fire, and medical providers, passengers of the four hijacked airplanes, and victims of the U.S. Senate anthrax attacks in Washington, D.C., that followed on the heels of 9/11.
Each quilt shows a patriotic scene of an attack site and is surrounded by photographs and the names of those who perished. The all-encompassing "Victims Quilt" will be constructed in three 20-foot (six-meter) sections. The center panel will depict the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The Flight 93 crash site and the Pentagon will flank either side.
"This project has become my mission in life, my contribution to my country and to its families all over the nation," said Ammermann.
The centerpiece of the 9/11 Memorial Quilts project is the "Victims Quilt." Ammermann said she had an idea in her mind of what this quilt should look like when she began the project nearly two years ago and went in search of the perfect person make the idea a reality.
Four months of searching led her to Connie Daniel, a quilter who lives in the small town of Herbster, Wisconsin. "I knew Connie was the only quilt artist that could create this massive memorial quilt unlike no other. She certainly is all I expected and more," said Ammermann.
SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES