Flag honoring terrorism victims begins tour in Jacksonville

24 Oct 2002 | Sgt. G. S. Thomas

Reminders of the victims of the Sept. 11 tragedies are everywhere - from the tiny American flags people have on their car windows to the "FDNY" bumper stickers. But few of the reminders are as gargantuan as the 63- by 35-foot quilted flag Elizabeth Barnes orchestrated.

After a year of work, with the help of more than 1,200 people from 10 different countries and 46 states, the flag was assembled for the first time Tuesday at Jacksonville Commons Recreation Center.

What originally began life as a way to cope with the Sept. 11 tragedies transformed into a remembrance of 56 terrorism-related incidents.

"I was not able to put every incident of terrorism against America on the flag," said Barnes, a Navy spouse from Norfolk, Va. "The ones I chose are just a representative cross-section to give an idea of the different forms terrorism can take. Hopefully, one day there will be a place where we can remember all the victims of terrorism and not just a few."

To remember the victims, volunteers sewed more than 4,000 8- by 6-inch cloth squares together. On those squares are the names and emblems of those who lost their lives to terrorist actions.

Barnes recruited the volunteers through a Web site and sent them each a cross-stitch pattern through e-mail with directions of what thread and fabric colors to us. Once the volunteers finished their patterns, they sent the squares back to Barnes.

"The most challenging thing was getting people to return the squares on time," said Barnes.

Once all the squares were assembled and sewn together, it was time to display the creation for the public.

"We felt that the first stop must be at a military memorial or base," said Barnes. "We wanted to come to Jacksonville because of the Beirut Memorial and its anniversary."

Jacksonville-area residents seemed to appreciate being the first to see the flag as an estimated 500 people visited the site, according to Barnes.

"I brought my daughter here to teach her a little about what America stands for," said local resident Carol McCullough. "We must remember those who have died so we could be free."

The names of the victims of the terrorist attack in Beirut make up only a portion of the 3,774 different panels with victims' names, according to Barnes.

But even with all that work, the flag is still not quite complete.

"We're still missing the 12th and 13th stripes," said Barnes. "They are blank, and we'll add them later."

Currently, there are plans to tour the country with the flag. Barnes said she's planned stops in Pennsylvania, New York, Oklahoma City and the nation's capitol.