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United Airlines We Remember
Printable version

  • Copyright 1996 Caryl Bryer Fallert
  • Size:  12' x 12'
  • Materials: 100% cotton fabric /  80/20 cotton/ poly batting
  • Techniques: Hand dyed, machine pieced, appliqued, and quilted

See more information and details below
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Design Concept

NAMES: AIDS Memorial Quilt Panel
This is the story of a 12 foot square panel made for the Aids Memorial Quilt on behalf of the employees of United Airlines.

See Caryl's story below.

In 1996, the United Airlines Foundation sponsored the traveling display of a 12' x 12' quilt panel hand-crafted by Caryl Bryer Fallert, who was, at that time, a flight attendant for United Airlines.  The quilt was made in memory of employees, customers and loved ones lost to this terrible disease.

This panel toured the world, making 26 stops in 18 cities in 3 countries, and was viewed and embellished by hundred of United Airlines employees. See full image of complete quilt.

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  The panel is "United Airlines We Remember" #04668 in the AIDS quilt registery.
To go to the NAMES main site http://www.aidsquilt.org


Caryl's Story

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We Remember
In May of 1996 I was asked to make a panel for the Aids Memorial Quilt on behalf of United Airlines. It needed to be 12 feet square, and it needed to be finished in three weeks. I spent several days designing the 12 foot square and getting approval for the final design.

The design has a six foot center panel with a globe and a bird to represent the airline, and it's worldwide employees. A red candle symbolizes remembering those we have lost. In the upper left corner of the quilt are the words "we remember", and in the lower right, "United Airlines."
In two concentric circles, surrounding the globe are the words "we remember" written in 15 different languages.

The last week of May I constructed and quilted the six foot square, center panel. There were still six more three foot by six foot panels with the circles of words, to make by the June 5 deadline. Help arrived the first week of June.   On June 3rd and 4th, Bill Lotheridge, and Scott Nelson came to my studio to lend a hand.
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Working on the final six panels, then assembling the finished quilt was an adventure for all of us. Bill and Scott quickly learned all the parts of quilting that don't require sewing skills, On June 3, they measured and cut all the panels, then laid out and fused all the words to the background fabric. 

The next day, Bill and Scott measured and cut the backing panels, and batting, and pin basted the panels together.

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Bill even did a little sewing on the back panels. On June 3rd, I spent the whole day at the sewing machine stitching the letters to the background.  The next day, I quilted all six panels between 6 am and 10 p.m., after which Bill and Scott removed all the pins.

330am.jpg (4786 bytes) Late that night we began stitching together the large pieces of the quilt. As the quilt grew to 12 feet square, it got heavy and awkward. Eventually it took all three of us to haul it through the sewing machine. At 3:30 am on the morning of June 5, the quilt was complete.

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Later that morning, Bill began a six week journey to take the quilt to as many United cities as possible so that employees could attach red ribbons to remember those they knew and loved who had died of aids.

A memory book traveled with the quilt to record our memories of those we lost.

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foldedquilts.jpg (4299 bytes)In October of 1996, all the panels of the quilt were displayed in Washington D.C. on the mall between the Capitol and the Washington Monument. On Saturday, October 12, I arrived at the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. just in time to watch the last of the panels being unfolded on the mall. The unfolding ceremony requires hundreds of volunteers, dressed in white, and lasts about an hour and a half.

 

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Click here to see another picture of one of the 12 foot squares.  A detail of can be found below.

The quilt is made up of three by six foot panels with the names and memories of individuals who have died of aids. These are sewn together to form twelve foot squares. Each of the twelve foot squares is surrounded by a three inch white canvas border with grommets. The twelve foot panels are lashed together to form twenty-four foot squares. The twenty-four foot squares are laid out on the ground with black canvas tarpaulins about six feet wide,

At sunrise, a twenty-four foot panel, folded with it's corners to the center, is placed diagonally in the center of each twenty-four foot square of grass.The twenty-four foot square panels were unfolded in rows. Each panel was unfolded by eight volunteers. As each panel was unfolded, the volunteers moved to their next assigned panel and surrounded it, holding hands.
When all were in position from one end of the mall to the other, a signal was given, and all the panels in a single row were unfolded at the same time. 

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First four people reached to the center and folded back the inside set of corners.

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The next four people then went to the center again, and folded back the outside set of corners.

turning.jpg (4918 bytes) The unfolded twenty-four foot panel was then lifted about the heads of the group of eight people, who rotated it by walking clockwise, until the panel could be placed exactly in the square between the black canvas walkways.
After the quilt left my hands in June, it traveled to twenty six different cities in the United States and Europe. At each city, United employees were offered to opportunity to sew a red ribbon on the quilt to remember a fellow employee that had lost to aids. finalunfold.jpg (5503 bytes)
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When the quilt was unfolded in Washington, it was covered with more than a thousand red ribbons

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During the unfolding, thousands of people stood quietly around the periphery.  At the end of the unfolding, the thousands of visitors were invited to walk among the quilt panels.
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The walkways were often as crowded as the aisles at the AQS show in Paducah, KY, but there was a quiet kindness and respect among the visitors. The crowd were as diverse a group as you could ever expect to find in one place. White, African American, Asian, Latino, rich and poor, gay and straight, able bodied and disabled. Some individuals wept silently by the panels of those they had loved. It was not unusual to see a stranger approach and lay a comforting arm on their shoulder. No one is untouched.

From the beginning of the unfolding, until the panels were refolded at sunset, the names of those who have dies were read over the public address system by a series of readers, including nationally known political and spiritual leaders, corporate officers, health professionals, artists, writers, and family members of those who have died.

The squares filled the entire Washington Mall (the space between the Capitol building and the Washington Monument) Our panel, was in the center of the very first row, by the Capitol reflection pool, and the stage.

I chatted for a while with the volunteer who was assigned the first three-hour shift in the area of our quilt panel.....a United, customer service representative. As we talked he said, " Someday, my daughter will probably have a panel in this quilt. She was a nurse" he explained, "and she was stuck by a contaminated needle" I asked him about the promising new drugs we have heard about.. "Yes" he said, "She is taking one of them now. It costs her $995.00 each month, just for the drug. It is not covered by health insurance, and the hospial for which she worked bears no financial liability for the illness she contracted working for them. She gets a disability insurance check for $235.00 each month, and that is her only income."

Another United volunteer, one of my fellow flight attendants, wrote the name of one of her friends on a red ribbon and attached it to the quilt. It was a name I knew well. At six in the morning on Memorial Day, 1978, I was setting up the galley on a 737, when I heard a bright, eager voice, and I looked up to see a blond, young man in a brand new uniform. "Hi" he said, "I'm Doug, and this is my first flight"

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I decided to try to walk through the entire quilt. The experience of walking among the panels is beyond words.
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The panels are filled with photographs, memories and expressions of love from friends and family members.
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The majority of panels were for young men and women in the prime of their lives.
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On one panel were the tiny shoes of ten children who had died.

There were also hundreds of panels for nurses and doctors, priests and ministers, mothers and grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers, and little children. burris.jpg (7329 bytes)
ninja.jpg (9898 bytes) The panels of the well known, like Arthur Ashe, were sewn to panels of those known only to a loving family or a close circle of friends.

Some of the panels contained traditional patchwork patterns. A few were even hand quilted.The vast majority were not quilted at all.
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Many were made from clothing, ties, and other cloth objects that belonged to the victims. More than half included photographs of the victims and their families. Some were exquisitely embroidered, painted, printed, or drawn, while others had only the crudely written name of the victim, executed in the coarsest of materials.
None lacked emotional impact.

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Volunteers served three hour shifts, watching over the quilt panels in a particular area. This was not the kind of archival, white gloved guarding that usually happens at quilt shows. The quilts, after all, are laid directly on the grass. Many relatives sat for a time or laid flowers on the panels of their loved ones.

I walked nonstop for four hours, and realized I wasn't even half way to the Washington Monument. Lunch had been arranged a few blocks away, but I decided to skip so that I could see more of the quilt. I walked faster, and began going up only every-other row, trying to see each twenty-four foot panel from one side. After another hour of walking, I had reached what I thought at the time was the half way point.

line.jpg (5056 bytes) I began to feel light headed from no food or water, and hoping to find a soda, headed to the edge of the central mall where some tents were set up. Beyond the tents were grassy tree-lined parks on both sides of the mall. I soon discovered that these too were filled with sections of the quilt.  Stretching for two blocks in front of one tent were people waiting patiently in line. I wondered why so many people were waiting in this one line.

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Then I saw a woman showing a three by six foot quilt panel to the couple in front of her, holding it up like any quilter at a quilt guild meeting. Suddenly, I realized that each person in line was carrying a plastic or cloth bag, and inside each one was a new quilt panel, waiting to be checked in and cataloged for inclusion in the quilt. Further along the line were a group of five young men, each carrying a bag. They were taking turns showing their panels and having their pictures taken. 

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I walked beside the quilt panels under the trees for a while, then returned to the mall. Knowing I would have to leave in the late afternoon, I walked faster and faster, and began skipping several rows at a time. After seven straight hours of walking, I finally reached the Washington Monument, having actually seen only a fraction of the entire quilt. writing.jpg (9086 bytes) As I walked along the sidewalk back to the Capitol, I saw volunteers filling the remaining spaces under the trees with the new panels that had been checked in that day, and the names continued to be read aloud for all the hear. 
They say the quilt now fills more that twenty-four football fields, and is the largest piece of art in history. This may have been the last time it would be physically possible to display all of the quilt panels in a single setting, but the leaders of the Names Project have vowed to continue spreading the quilt on the mall in Washington until a cure is found, and is available to all who need it.
 
Click here to see the
AIDS MEMORIAL QUILT WEBSITE
Microsoft has put the whole quilt online at:
http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/redmond/projects/aidsquilt/
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Web Site Design by Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry 1997-2016 All Rights Reserved
Bryerpatch Studio • 10 Baycliff Place • Port Townsend, WA • 98368 • USA
360-385-2568 • caryl@bryerpatch.com
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