Quilts That Helped Us Heal:
The Briscoe Center’s Reflections on 9/11 Quilt Collection
August 29, 2011
On this tenth anniversary of 9/11, the Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin, presents quilts from its Reflections on 9/11 Quilt Collection. These quilts began as 139 blocks made by quilters in Japan immediately after 9/11. Quilt makers from the San Antonio area finished them into 40 quilts.
This project began to coalesce at the 2001 International Quilt Festival in Houston, only weeks after September 11, when Festival volunteers Marty Kishiro of Osaka, Japan, and Barbara Gilstad of San Antonio discussed the recent heartrending events. Even before Festival, Marty had rallied quilt makers in Japan to make ten-inch quilt blocks expressing condolence and support; by October he had received 139 blocks. Shortly after Festival, Marty asked Barbara if she could find quilt makers who would turn the blocks into finished quilts. As Barbara later recalled, “Without even thinking I said ‘Yes’; I couldn’t say ‘No.'”
Barbara enlisted the help of Ruth Felty, a fellow member of the Greater San Antonio Quilt Guild, and together they assembled 47 area quilt makers. Each quilter selected one or more blocks and was responsible for layout, fabrics, and techniques. By late 2004, the 139 quilt blocks had become 40 finished quilts.
This three-year collaborative project was a healing experience for many of its participants. The designs and messages printed, stitched, or embroidered on some of the blocks express hope, caring, and sympathy—hearts, a rainbow, or a dove grace quilt blocks next to the words “love,” “freedom,” and “peace.”
For the Texas quilt makers, turning these blocks into quilts became a way to express their feelings after 9/11. These participants recorded what working on the project meant to them. Their sentiments—the core of the labels for each of the quilts displayed here—capture the healing power of this collaborative quilt-making project.
The Reflections on 9/11 Quilt Collection is now part of the Briscoe Center’s Winedale Quilt Collection, where it is being preserved and made available for research. All of the collection’s quilts may be viewed online at the Briscoe Center’s website.
376th Heavy Bombardment Group
The Briscoe Center has added the records of the 376th Heavy Bombardment Group (HBG) to its military history collections. Comprised of four air squadrons, the 376th HBG saw action in the North African and Italian theaters during World War II. The collection was donated by the 376th HBG Association, a veteran’s group, which continues to stage reunions and raise money for a variety of causes.
“I want to thank the 376th HBG Association for donating this collection, which perfectly complements the center’s growing military history collections,” said Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. “The records will also continue to grow as association members donate new materials, giving us a fuller picture of the American airman’s experience during the Second World War.”
The 376th HBG grew from a task force of 231 servicemen and 23 aircraft commanded by Colonel Harry E. Halverson from Fort Myers, Florida, in 1942. The unit, originally called the Halverson Project (HALPRO), was deployed to Egypt the same year. From there it began raids on Axis (mostly German and Italian) targets in North Africa. The HALPRO unit became the 376th Heavy Bombardment Group and was nicknamed “the Liberandos” after the B-24D Liberator aircraft it operated. New aircraft and personnel were added in 1943 to create the unit’s four squadrons. From bases in Palestine, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, the 376th HBG bombed Axis supply lines first in North Africa, and later in Europe. Between 1943 and 1945, the group flew over 450 missions.
The 376th HBG Records comprise correspondence, newspaper clippings, legal documents, photographs, audiovisual recordings, notes, research materials, and artifacts. The papers also document many of the 376th HBG Association’s reunions, which include oral history projects, awards, and lectures, as well as the association’s publication The Liberandos Intelligencer. In addition to administrative records, the collection contains the papers of individual veterans including Captain Edward Clendenin, Captain James O. Britt, Major John M. Toomey, and Lieutenant Richard H. Spaulding. The records also contain material culture items such as flight jackets, helmets, insignia, and slide rules used to determine bombing distances.
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