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Teacher finds way to remember 9/11 victims by making quilt
Quilt features buttons for each 9/11 victim
Sue Ann Rogers and Dick Taylor at First Presbyterian Church hold up a 9/11 quilt made by local teacher Shelley Collins. The quilt will be used in Sunday’s service at the church on Enota Drive. - photo by Tom Reed

Ten years ago, Shelley Collins and her students were preparing for safety day at Centennial Arts Academy.

The teachers had it all planned out for Sept. 11 to help the students remember 911, the number to call in an emergency. They even wore 911 T-shirts.

Collins said the coincidence of safety day, the T-shirts and the attacks struck her. That night she went to church.

"It was really during the church service that it came to me," Collins said. "I was just inspired by the service and trying to think about all the people. Trying to grasp, somehow, a way to represent each person who died that day."

It was then that she noticed buttons.

"Everyone (who died) was probably wearing a button of some kind. The buttons could be all shapes, sizes and textures. They could be made of wood, metal, glass and plastic, all kinds of things," she said. "I thought it was very much like the people, who were all kinds of people."

Collins set to work creating a commemorative quilt out of the most American fabric she could think of, denim. She carefully sewed one unique button on at a time.

With the death toll rising every day the task of sewing a button for each person seemed too much for one person.

"People said ‘Oh, that's impossible,' but when we said 3,000, that wasn't impossible," Collins said.

Collins asked all of her co-workers to help her find buttons. Many of the teachers involved their classes in the effort by making patches for the quilt. Even with the help of students, teachers and friends the quilt took a year to complete.

"I thought I was developing carpal tunnel for a while," Collins said. "I just had to have something to keep me busy, just to keep me from curling up into a ball. It was therapeutic."

The quilt is so large it is difficult for one person to carry. Collins said if she'd known how large it was going to be she would have started with something much smaller. Because of the size and weight, Collins allowed Centennial Arts Academy and Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy to display the quilt in their halls over the years.

In 2007, it was taken down and bagged up and all but forgotten. Collins expected to reopen the bag and find the quilt ruined but to her surprise it was fine except for a few lost and broken buttons.

The quilt will be used in Sunday's service at First Presbyterian Church on Enota Drive.

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