MONTVILLE, NJ – Two 9/11 quilts were dedicated on November 11, 2015 by a group of sixth, seventh and eighth grade students at Robert R. Lazar Middle School. The quilts, which represent the culmination of a unit on symbols and the history of 9/11, began as a classroom assignment to illustrate what symbols mean and why they are important. As respect for the topic grew, so did the Montville Township Public Schools students’ desires to create a lasting tribute.
“How wonderful that students, who were not even born at the time of 9/11, want to honor our country and first responders,” Principal Sharon Carr said as she accepted the textiles from the children. “We are going to find a special place for these beautiful and important quilts. One will remain on display in our school as a reminder of 9/11. The other we hope to donate to the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City for display.”
Teacher Marisa Crozier noted that because the students had not yet been born, “they were not personally impacted by 9/11.”
That fact made the students’ enthusiasm for the quilt project that much more rewarding for the six teachers who helped coordinate the students’ dedicated efforts.
“The two quilts grew out of a paper and pencil assignment,” Crozier added. “This is a project that caught their interest and snowballed. Once a group of children get really interested in something, it is wonderful to see them take it all the way to the end.”
The ten students who participated in making the quilts had watched the NOVA documentary, “Ground Zero Supertower,” about the rebuilding of the World Trade Center area and the construction of the new Freedom Tower.
Following the movie, students were instructed to draw a picture using symbols to convey their message of tribute to 9/11.
“I looked up 9/11 on the computer and I found a picture where the city was faded, and a flag, which represented freedom, hung over the faded city,” said sixth grade student, Lane Richards. It was the contrast between the faded city, of lost people, and the bright flag, of patriotism, that Richards captured in his symbol drawing.
His drawing, along with nine others from students and six from teachers, is one square on each of the two quilts.
Michael Cappuccio, an eighth grade student, drew a first responder holding a baby.
“It is what 9/11 means to me,” said Cappuccio, as he pointed to his drawing. The first responder is standing on a background of red, white and blue. The baby is cradled in his arms. The first responder has wings made from US flags. “It was inspiring to me because he was holding the baby over the flag.”
“I added the wings.” Cappuccio explained.
Christopher Clark-Stokes, from the seventh grade, integrated minimalist techniques into his symbolic design.
“I put one star in the middle to represent all fifty stars,” Clark-Stokes noted. “I made a circle of red, white and blue for the flag and patriotism. There are planes in the sky and the World Trade Center at the top of the circle.”
When asked why a simple drawing exercise evolved into an extensive quilt project to honor first responders and others, the students talked about the many surprising things they learned from watching the NOVA documentary.
“I learned that steel melts,” said Clark-Stokes. “So for the Freedom Tower they didn’t use steel.”
“I think of all the people who died rescuing others, like police officers and fireman,” said Richards. “For the Freedom Tower, they changed the way they build things. They had to go through many tests with the glass to make it so you can see through it, but so it would be safe.”
“They even built stairwells that don’t fill with smoke,” Crozier marveled.
Before the dedication ceremony ended, the quilters voted on which quilt to display at Lazar, and which to donate. The more traditional red, white and blue design the students hope will be accepted by the 9/11 Memorial. A more modern design will remain on display in Lazar Middle School.