WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 11, 2013) -- Gracing a corridor in the Pentagon, some 50 quilts are on public display after being sent as gifts by Americans who wanted to express their feelings after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
There was a tremendous outpouring and response from the public after the attacks, and the quilts were a way that the public connected and expressed the profound sadness of the nation, said Albert L. Jones, curator of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Historical Exhibits.
The quilts came from all around the country -- from children and school groups, military and community groups, artists and other concerned citizens, he said.
"The common theme is loss, the heartfelt feelings and grief over the loss that the country experienced in this horrendous event that took place," said Jones.
While most of the quilts came from the United States, some did come from outside the country, said Jones, who spoke from the hallway where the quilts hang, on the eve of the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The hallway is part of the public tour and Jones encourages visitors to take a moment to reflect upon and study these national treasures.
"There's a lot of history here that can be gleaned to obtain a better understanding of where our country has come from and hopefully where we would like for it to go in the future in relation to its security and well-being," said Jones.
Art is therapeutic and healing. It is a way to show support, grieve and heal, he said.
Many of the quilts have the American flag and hearts, contain patriotic and military themes, and say "God Bless America," he said.
"You see children expressing the idea of peace and 'thank you' to rescue squads and our troops," he said.
As visitors tour the hallway, they can see quilts that contain patches, tributes, messages of support, and even photos of each of the 184 people who were killed in the Pentagon and on American Airlines Flight 77.
The Hearts Across America Quilt, made by children in six states, contains drawings of hearts, patriotic themes, the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and airplanes.
"People connect with this very emotionally. As a matter of fact, I've given tours to groups that as they toured this corridor, they were in tears. That gives you an idea of the connection that people have with these."
Jones said the Pentagon has about 120 quilts in total, and the display rotates.
As the caretaker of these precious items, Jones, a former history professor, said it is a privilege for him to serve in this capacity.
"It provides an opportunity for me to contribute, in a small way at least, to a historical legacy for future generations to glean from. That's the important thing," he said.