People from across the country have created quilt panels for the HOPE Quilt displayed at the Lincoln Memorial. The quilt that spells out hope was the inspiration of Diane Canney, an artist and winery owner from Purcellville, Virginia.
“It’s a very strange time we’re living in,” said Canney. “So why don’t we show what we’ve all experienced? And I believe the nation has the power, the stamina, and the hope to get past this,” she continued. (see video below)
The artist and her husband invested around $60,000 into the moving display of standing eight-foot letters spelling out “HOPE.” Today, the traveling quilt has been all over Washington D.C. and in nearby Loudoun Country, Virginia.
Over the summer, Canney asked her 95-year-old mother, Phyllis Liedtke, what she wanted for her birthday. In response, her mother asked her to focus on helping others instead.
That’s when Canney remembered the AIDS Memorial Quilt, an enormous memorial created in the 80s to the thousands who died from AIDs. With this as inspiration, Canney began her plans for a HOPE Quilt to honor those who died from COVID-19.
Moreover, the HOPE Quilt honors all the frontline workers who have saved lives and kept America running throughout the pandemic.
“Where would we be without people who are so willing to put their own lives on the line?” Liedtke said.
Honoring Frontline Workers
Speaking with the Washington Post, Canney explained:
“Our frontline health workers are fighting a war against an invisible disease,” Canney said. A quilt “tells the story of this central thing that we’re all affected by. It’s a gift to my mom and to the nation. I wanted to be sure we captured this moment, so we will know what it looked like 30 years from now.”
Liedtke and 15 of her friends from a senior living community in Pompano Beach, Florida, helped with the project, creating 15 panels. Over the years, she’s seen many disease outbreaks, but COVID-19 has been particularly shocking.
“I thought we’d seen it all,” she said. “I lost my grandfather to the flu in 1918. I’ve lived through the Depression, which was grim, and there was the smallpox scare in New York.”
To create the quilt, volunteers work on the sections in separate houses, careful to maintain social distancing.
The HOPE Quilt also called the COVID-19 U.S. Honor Quit, made it to the National Mall, and there was an opening ceremony honoring First Responders. On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, hundreds of candles lined the way to the quilt at sunset.
“We are essentially fighting a war against an invisible enemy,” Canney said at the evening ceremony. “When you think of our Frontline workers, they are our soldiers.”
Each Square Tells a Unique Story
The subject matter for each square tells a personal story, while others share a recognizable portrait, like Dr. Anthony Fauci or the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Also, visitors to the display can participate, creating their own art to be included.
In one square, an artist painted the portrait of Thomas Ali Fields Jr. The 32-year-old Navy veteran died from the virus in March, leaving behind a 6-year-old son. Field’s father, Thomas Ali Fields Sr. took his mother in a wheelchair to see the HOPE Quilt.
“My mother broke down, and she was crying when she saw that panel with my son’s face on it,” Fields said. “Just to see the love people put forth and to take the time to do that. For me, to have his face on something that people can see for years to come is something really special.”
You can see the display and Thomas Ali Fields Sr. in the video below from COVID19 U.S. Honor Quilt Project. Featured is Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington D.C. Delegate to United States House of Representatives.
Stories of Love and Loss
Another panel honors Isabelle Papadimitriou, 64, a respiratory therapist for 30 years from Texas who died from Covid-19 after one week of mild symptoms. She was just one week from retiring, and her son tried to get her to retire, but she wanted to keep helping people.
“My co-workers need me. My hospital needs me. I’ll be OK,” her daughter, Fiana Tulip, recalled. “She said she was stronger than an ox, and we believed her, because we knew she was strong.”
Another square shows the portrait of Mark Anthony Urquiza, 65, who died from complications from COVID-19. The Tolleson, Arizona resident was committed to the community with a “huge heart and generosity,” recalled his daughter, Kristin Urquiza.
Urquiza held a candlelit vigil outside the Arizona Capitol for her beloved father and led a campaign to raise awareness about the serious threat posed by COVID-19.
Thanks to Diane Canney and everyone who shared their stories to honor the lives of those lost to the pandemic. And thank you to every Frontline worker who has kept America going. Thanks to you, we have hope we’ll emerge into a much better New Year.
Featured images: Screenshots via YouTube/ COVID19 U.S. Honor Quilt Project