Andy guards the AIDS quilt.

December 1st is World AIDS Day.

My college is one of the many places that display a part of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. I’m part of a group called AIDS workcrew- we bring a part of the quilt for display for a few days around this time and we guard it while it’s here.

We’ve got one panel. It’s made of 8 individual panels, each 3 feet by 6 feet. I sit on a bench next to a 12x12 square of grief, memory, and tribute.

Danny 12-17-89: Forgive self and allow yourself to be today…

Charles: Rest in peace. Love, ma. There’s a red heart with a high school picture and a pink elephant in the middle.

Maurice: loved those wings.

Scott; Loved and missed by many. There’s a picture of a cat with “opie misses you” written under it.

Bobby: A Silence = Death tshirt. Music notes.

In memory of Peter. If love could have saved you, you never would have died.

Scott: our beloved son.

Ted: A stuffed bear, a bow tie, dancing footprints, a fishing lure. It was made and signed by 8 of his friends and family.

The museum guards give me a nod and smile whenever they walk past. A woman comes in with her two young children and tries to explain what the quilt means. People trickle in- some glance and leave, some examine the panels with great care as if they’re trying to memorize every detail. Some just stand there quietly crying.

There’s more than 86,000 names on the quilt. It’s less than 1/5 of AIDS deaths in the U.S. alone, and 36 other countres have contributed to the quilt along with all 50 US states and the territories.

I would like to remember Sean, who died when he was 17.

http://www.aidsquilt.org

Oh, the AIDS quilt is an amazing thing. I worked as a guard when it came to my old school, but I didn’t do much guarding. I read every square (we had well over a hundred, I think) and cried in silence. It was all so sad. The one that affected me the most was for a little girl who died from AIDS when she was 4. I still remember every detail of that square. The most beautiful thing, though, is realizing that these people were so loved and are so missed even years later. It gives me hope that no one’s life is meaningless and it reassures me that we are here for some reason, if only to love someone and be loved.

http://167.160.195.60/images/panels/04364.JPG
That’s my cousin, David Earl Kuncis, on the upper right.

My friend, David Knepp, at http://167.160.195.60/images/panels/01040.JPG

We was a hell of a dancer and actor in the Little Theatre I was in back in our hometown.

Oh, dammit.

Every time I so much as read snippets of the squares from the AIDS quilt I start crying. I saw the whole thing in DC at the end of the March in 1993. I cried halfway home (a five-hour drive).

We got a few of the traveling squares at the local Penn State campus in 94. I couldn’t get all the way through the gym where they were being displayed without bawling.

There’s such a feeling of presence in those tributes. People you’ll never know, who you’ve never met, are there, and the emotions that their friends and families have for them is just…woven into the everyday materials and objects so strongly.

For what it’s worth, I’m wiping tears from my beard where they flowed while I was typing the above. So many lives lost. So many years of life lost. So many beautiful (inside and out) people that I may have never gotten the chance to know anyway, but now never will.

I’m afraid to go back and read the OP, because I know I’ll start crying again. At the same time, I’m drawn to go back and read the OP, because the emotion is like a magnet.

jayjay

I wish I could take the Quilt and wrap it around everyone I know (and even those I don’t) that have been touched by this disease, and have it make them all better.

I know what you mean, Rasa.

I’m guarding again today. If any of you are around places where the quilt is being shown, it’s really worth a look.

Andy,

They had some sections last night at Steve Schalchlin’s concert at The College of New Jersey… one 12 x 12 entire panel was dedicated to NAMES project volunteers who had died of AIDS.

In memory of Dickie (his panel isn’t on the net yet), who died almost two years ago, but way too early for any of us to bear.

Thanks, Andy and everybody else, for sharing.

I’m from abroud so I had not heard of the quilt. But it sounds like a wonderful idea. Good luck!

Since it’s World AIDS day today I thought I’d bump this.

I guarded the Canadian AIDS memorial quilt on “Compassion Duty” in 1996, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Compassion Duty meant you had a map of the several hundred names then on the quilt and looked up names for family members. If they wanted to go alone, we just gave them directions, if they wanted us to help them find it and then leave, we did, if they wanted to talk about their loved ones, we listened, if they wanted us to stay, we just watched them cry. I held peoples hands, I lent them my shoulder, I held them and felt their sobs, I heard them tell me about childhoods, loves, lives gone, I heard them tell me that they had it too.

The AIDS quilt changed my life, and I have never forgotten it. I can close my eyes and remember the days I spent there.

bump
just too important for page 2…

I guarded the quilt several years ago. One notation I saw on a panel I have decided to put on my own tombstone. I don’t remember the name of the deceased but they must have been religious. Instead of dates for “born” and “died” they said “born” and “reborn”. So for me it will be like that.

I’d like to remember Billy and Anna who died two days apart.

Love through death, and beyond.

Miss you guys.

12-17-98 & 12-19-98

jayjay

My bus to DC was parked near the Quilt truck. We had the honor of helping the crew load the Quilt after the display. I also helped with a display at my university the year before.

I can remember when the whole Quilt Project first started and the Quilt in it’s entirety used to be displayed. How sad that there have been so many deaths that over the last few years it’s only possible to display it in sections.

I was fortunate - or unfortunate - enough to be around at a time when displaying the quilt meant reading the name of every single person represented on it (and very, many people are not). The reading of the names alone used to take several hours. A very moving and humbling experience.

If I had the chance, I would put in a sixteen hour shift to watch over the Aids quilt. People marvel over the Shroud of Turin, when they should be in absolute awe over the sight of hundreds of colorful squares, each one proof of life lived to the extremes of joy and sadness.

Andygirl, as you look upon the love sewn into each and every segment of that wondrous whole, could you please look just five seconds extra for me and others like me who might not get a chance to do so?

When I worked on the quilt, they read all the names aloud - it took about 2 1/2 hours IIRC, and was very difficult to listen to, but very moving.

Andygirl, please come back and tell us about your weekend of guarding. I know it’s hard.

I don’t know that there’s ever a “best” World AIDS Day, but the one which sticks in my most happened in Canberra in front of Parliament House when a four year old child unravelled the quilt panel he’d made for his dad.

On the very foreshore of the lake, and in front of the symbol of our government no-one wanted to leave. We lit a fire, we all sang “May the Circle be Unbroken”, but then as the moon’s glow faded over the lake and the fire died, and we were all reluctant to leave, a male friend of all of us (who also happens to be gay) sang the most appropriate and haunting refrain I’ve ever heard.

You just had to be there.

To those who have never had the privilege of seeing “The Quilt”, even though it only travels in sections these days, go see it. Go see every stitch which is sown with unconditional love, go see the incredible artistry of the panels, go hear the names read off. I’ll guarantee, you’ll walk away a different person.