Thursday, December 12, 2013
WINSLOW - As a mother of three young children on Sept. 11, 2001, Susan Morissette said she witnessed the human pain and suffering and wanted to help.
Rep. Susan Morissette of Winslow, executive director of the Heart of America Quilt, holds a section of the Sept. 11 commemorative that has grown to an acre in size since its creation 10 years ago as a "giant greeting card" for victims' families.
David Leaming/Morning Sentinel
Morissette, now 41 and a Republican state representative for House District 54, started collecting fabric to make a quilt to send to the families of attack victims. She contacted local schools and got children to sign their names and put their artwork on panels for the quilt so that local families could feel they were being helpful, too.
"While watching the tragedy unfold before our eyes, I realized that my children were watching this as well," she said referring to Christopher, now 14; Joshua, now 13; and twins Noah and Jackie, now 10. "I knew that there had to be other children that were feeling the same way. I thought we could make a small quilt and take it to New York City -- the idea was to bring people together, kind of like a giant greeting card to let the families of the victims know that we supported them and that we were thinking of them."
What emerged from those days following the Sept. 11 attacks was the Heart of America Quilt, a collection of fabric with names and signatures and messages from all 50 states and 14 countries worldwide.
"Within two weeks, we were a national movement," she said. "It was shortly after that that we had Sen. (Susan) Collins and at the time, Gov. (Angus) King and Congressman (John) Baldacci all signing portions of the quilt. Firefighters who had draped the flag over the Pentagon had added their names."
Morissette established a website for the quilt -- www.heartofamericaquilt.org -- and built a volunteer staff and a board of directors, which includes a survivor of the Pentagon attack, a retired U.S. Navy master chief petty officer and a retired U.S Army colonel.
Today, she said, there are quilt sections from India, Iraq, Kuwait, Japan, Afghanistan, Australia and Canada, as well as from countries in Europe and Africa, and every branch of the U.S. military.
The quilt now measures a full acre in size and has been displayed in sections at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.; a few blocks from ground zero in The New York Mercantile Exchange; and at sites across the nation.
"There are portions of the quilt that still travel all over the United States," Morissette said. "The last time the quilt was shown in full, it was a half-acre in size and we did that in front of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. We had a panel that a soldier carried in his backpack to Iraq and when he brought the panel back and it was presented to me, it was signed by children in Iraq saying: 'Thank you, America; we love you, America."'
Now, Morissette is the Maine coordinator for Golf 9/12, a national day of unity in which people can participate at their local club or golf course, connected by a custom mobile application and social networking.
Details for the event can be found at www.golf912.org. Golf 9/12 events are scheduled at 36 locations in 15 states.
The Maine event is set for 2 p.m. Sept. 12 at Sable Oaks Golf Course in South Portland.
The event, which will have a roster of celebrities taking part, including sports figures such as former NFL quarterback Dan Marino and Major League Baseball's Johnny Damon, is designed to "inspire all to remember how we felt on Sept. 12, 2001, standing united and engaged to honor and uphold the spirit of freedom."
Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at: