On the morning of December 14, 2012, I punched a couple items off my to-do list on the computer and was heading to the car dealership for a routine annual inspection and oil change. I had a moment to check the weather forecast so I opened my internet browser and saw the headlines. Something about a shooting at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, many details were still pending. Newtown?! I immediately fired off an email to my editor, Renee at The Taunton Press expressing positive thoughts for the staff with whom I have worked over the past few years. Taunton is located in Newtown. Mine is a business relationship. But the people who are The Taunton Press are also my friends.
At the car dealership, the television in the waiting room aired non-stop coverage. And the news kept getting worse. The world stood still as horrible details emerged. By the next morning I was back in touch with my friends at Taunton, and the details were put in place. A call for quilts. Email communications and social media spread the word. And quilters responded.
Overall 120 quilts were received during a three week time frame. Each quilt--enough for family members and first responders--was specially selected for the person receiving it. Members of local community organizations like Women Involved in Newtown helped distribute each quilt personally along with a note from me:
What is a quilt? It seems simple enough: pieces of colorful fabric sewn together, with a simple fabric backing, and batting in the middle to make it warm and cozy. The stitches that run through all the layers are what hold it together and add to its beauty.
Newtown is like that quilt—held together by so many beautiful stitches. And The Taunton Press, my publisher, is one of the largest employers in Newtown. Many of its employees are residents of the town. Some have children that attend Sandy Hook Elementary, and many others are friends with the teachers, students, parents, and first responders who were there that day. After hearing about what happened, I, along with many other quilters, had the desire to help—to make something positive, something meaningful that would honor those we lost, thank those who were the first to respond, and help the community move forward.
Through the years, many problems have been discussed and solved with needle and thread in hand. When something terrible happens in the world, quilters get stitching. And so we did for Newtown.
This quilt was handmade, finished, and selected so that it might bring comfort and hope to a community in distress. Hang it on a wall. Store it for a needy time. Wrap yourself in warmth. Feel the gentle embrace from someone who cares very deeply. Because, a quilt is so much more than the fabric, batting and stitching it is made of—it’s a reusable hug.
And that's the end of the story . . . so I thought.
The good news is that no one in the Taunton family was directly affected that day. The bad news is that everyone in the Taunton family was directly affected that day. I received touching personal messages of gratitude--hand delivered, heart-felt thank-you notes, emails, personal conversations--from parents whose children received quilts--children who were at the school that day. The quilts were from us. The thanks are for you. . .
In September, I was back in Newtown, working on a new project. The town seems to be back to 'normal.' The balloons and make-shift memorials have been moved away. Traffic whizzes down the main road at a speedy clip just like before. But there are differences. You can see it when a police siren is heard in the distance. In any other town, it's normal to hear a siren from time to time. In Newtown, people stop and catch their breath for a moment and remember.
And I thought you should know, too. I'm writing this message to pass along the sincerest thanks to those who participated in this project from those who received the quilts you made. Whether you sent a quilt or said a prayer . . . message received. Thank you.
What's next? For more information on some of the grass roots efforts in Newtown, these websites offer some additional information.
- The Sandy Hook Promise. Upon entering the site, you are immediately invited to join, but you can close down the prompt window and have a look around the site first. If you like what you see and want to be a part, then join. If not, that's okay.
- The Newtown Action Alliance. Lots of information here. Learn more about the Newtown Foundation, a non-legislative not-for-profit organization. Purchase ornaments and cards in the shop.
- Learn more about each of the victims and the individual memorial funds set up in their honor at My Sandy Hook Family.
- Participate in the National Vigil for Gun Violence Survivors, live streamed from the Washington National Cathedral today, Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 3:40 pm (eastern).
- I bet you have an unfinished quilt that could make someone smile or help them heal. Look around your own community and offer a quilty hug. Women's shelters, refugee organizations, hospitals, veterans' groups.
Quilters know that a quilt is more than fabric, batting and thread.
A quilt is love.