I am a native New Yorker, and love this city. In 2001, I was a struggling filmmaker, often working at other jobs to fill in the gaps between film work. I was working at one of those jobs on the morning of 9/11. I walked from midtown to the Brooklyn Bridge, along with many other New Yorkers. As I continued across the bridge home to Brooklyn, I smelled the smoke and the reality of what happened penetrated. I thought about all the people who would never return home. I wanted to do something to help.
Days passed. I learned about a project called “An American Quilt” which was involved in assisting people who wanted to make quilts for their lost loved ones. I attended a volunteers meeting. As everyone offered up her skills to make a contribution I realized that everyone sewed. I did not. What could I do?
Although I am a filmmaker, I did not want to pursue the suffering families to “get their stories”. The “media” was already doing that and placing an additional burden on these grief stricken families. I didn’t plan to make a film and had no budget. But, I knew their stories would help us all cope with this horrific tragedy.
Storytelling has always been my passion, both documentary and narrative. I am most interested in human stories; what we all share in common. I love collaborating with others to make films and have been very fortunate to have found talented and dedicated artists to work with. Everyone I worked with on this film shared my determination to tell the stories from the quilt.
The creator of the Quilt project suggested that families could share their stories with me if they chose to do so by contacting me and he would facilitate this. Many families wanted to share their stories and they called me. I felt obliged to meet them, although I didn’t know how I would make a film without any money. I was concerned about talking with people still grieving. I had no special training or preparation for meeting people under these conditions. So, I began by meeting some families, picking up finished quilts and transporting them back to New York City. I didn’t have a crew. It was just me with my very primitive DV camera and poor audio equipment.
I was surprised at how welcoming the families were. The rapport was much easier than I had anticipated. People were so genuine. Many had never quilted before. After a while, I enlisted the help of a professional cameraman. And together, we travelled as far as Pennsylvania to meet families, quilters and friends who had lost loved ones.
Many of us can relate to loss, family, and the uncertainty of life, but experiencing the violence and suddenness of this event was different. I knew these stories were important and needed to be told.