March 19, 2004

United in Memory: 9-11 Victims Memorial Quilt Comes to Cuyamaca College

EL CAJON – A 16,000-square-foot quilt memorializing the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will make its only stop in San Diego County March 25-28 at Cuyamaca College’s gymnasium in a free exhibition open to the public.

The Heritage of the Americas Museum, in partnership with the college, will display the United in Memory: 9-11 Victims Memorial Quilt, which is in the midst of a two-year tour across America.

The quilt, a global undertaking of more than 3,000 volunteers from 18 countries, consists of 142 individual 10-1/2-square-foot panels, each containing 25 blocks memorializing every victim of the attacks on the World Trade Center Towers and the Pentagon.

Exhibit hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, March 25 and 26; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 27 and 28.

Weeks following the attacks, Long Beach residents Corey Gammel, a freelance graphic artist, and his partner, Peter Marquez, operations manager for a moving and storage company, experienced first-hand the eeriness of ground zero, where the WTC Twin Towers once stood.

“The images that are seen on television, on the Internet and in pictures cannot compare to being confronted with it in person. Being there, smelling the smoldering remains and seeing the pile of rubble, was unbelievable,” Gammel said.

Realizing that people were traumatized by the event, the pair felt that the nation was in need of uniting and healing. It was then that Gammel envisioned a quilt similar to the world-renown AIDS Quilt.

The pair then founded the United in Memory 9-11 Victims Memorial Quilt Project, whose goal was to create a memorial that would serve as a lasting tribute to all those who perished on 9-11. A Web site was created at www.unitedinmemory.net, prompting responses from all over the world. Volunteers from more than a dozen countries contributed individual blocks for the quilt, which was started in May 2002, led by the Red Apron A Team, a core of volunteer quilters who gathered every Saturday at the Long Beach World Trade Center to work on the gargantuan project.

As word of mouth spread and the effort garnered major media coverage, volunteers across the globe joined in, completing 136 panels in time for the quilt’s West Coast premier Aug. 30, 2002 in the exhibition hall of the Queen Mary in Long Beach.

Gammel said the quilt, which would stretch across a quarter-mile if the panels were aligned end to end, was completed in just 11 months, a remarkable feat considering it was done largely as a grass-roots effort made possible by the power of the Internet.

As each block representing a 9-11 victim was completed, the progress was tabulated on the quilt Web site. Gammel explained that the 3,550 blocks exceeds the number of fatalities – 3,016 — because many victims had multiple family members contributing to the project. There are also blocks for Sirius, the explosives detection dog used by the New York Port Authority whose remains were recovered four months after the collapse of the trade center’s Tower One.

Then, too, are blocks such as the one from entertainer Dolly Parton whose contribution is in memory of all 9-11 victims.

“The exhibitions are free to the public.

The quilt in its entirety will be displayed in the Cuyamaca College gymnasium at 900 Rancho San Diego Parkway in El Cajon. Campus and driving maps are available at www.cuyamaca.edu or by calling (619) 660-4000.

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