Fourteen years ago, on September 2 at approximately 10:30 pm our community was rocked by an event that changed us all forever. Swiss Air flight 111 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean not far from where we live. All 229 people on board died.
My memories of that night are still very vivid. The low lying clouds, the mist not really foggy but heavy, moist air. I heard a plane go over, a low rumbling sound, not alarming as we are on the trans Atlantic flight path from the east coast of North America to Europe and some say there are about 800 flights a day fly over Nova Scotia. Very soon the sirens started, fire trucks, RCMP, ambulances. They didn't let up. Soon the dreaded "breaking news" interuption came on the tv saying a plane had gone down. Local fisherman took to their boats quickly for the rescue effort but it was not to be.
In the days and months ahead my community rallied behind the families of the victims to provide whatever they needed, rallied to support the troops who came to search our shoreline. We baked and cooked for them, we consoled them and we met some extraordinary people.
I first met Nancy through my neighbours, their connection is a remarkable story of coincidence. Nancy was a single Mom, her only child Rowenna was one of the 229 passengers killed in the crash. Rowenna was 18 years old and was on her way to school in Switzerland to study hotel management. In November of 1998, the Piecemakers Bee of the Mayflower Quilters Guild met Nancy at the Comfort and Joy Quilt Show, our annual fundraiser for the QEll Hospital. I had suggested to my neighbour, also a quilter that Nancy might like to come to our quilt show. She was in Halifax for some meetings about what had happened. Nancy thoroughly enjoyed her time at the show. While there she shared with us pictures of her daughter. Her great loss was one that touched us all and we wanted to do something for her to help ease that pain. It just seemed natural that we should make her a quilt.
I placed a notice in the January issue of the Guild newsletter asking for donations of 6” or 12” blocks. All we requested was that the pattern be a star block of any design. The blocks could be pieced or appliqued and had to be in by the end of March.
Some of the star blocks.
We received 75 blocks from 73 quilters from all over Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, New York and England. It soon became apparent that we would be making a large quilt! By using all the blocks without sashing, the quilt would measure 84”x108”, a generous queen-size quilt. The quilt all came together so well, just a few adjustments to balance out the yellows were needed.
The Piecemakers quilting Celestial Rows
Some of the Piecemakers Lenore, Madge, Viola and Ruth and frneds Diana and Debbie.
The top was then pieced and the layers basted together. The Piecemakers began the quilting using a floor model Q-Snap frame, we chose this method rather than a large frame so that we could transport the quilt easily to other groups. It worked very well and soon with the help of friends, the centre was done and it was ready to be passed on to another group of quilters. All in all 4 different groups hand quilted the quilt. A total of 98 quilters participated in this project. I had been in touch with Nancy through the summer to tell her about the quilt and to arrange a time to show it to her when she would be in Halifax that September for the one-year memorial services.
Nancy and her quilt Celestial Rows.
The label on the back documents everyone who made a block and everyone who quilted on the quilt.
On Thursday September 16, 1999, Nancy came to the Mayflower QG meeting and saw the quilt for the first time. Needless to say she was overwhelmed by the quilt and all the work that went into making it. The quilt, we named “Celestial Rows” (we named the quilt this not knowing Nancy's nickname for her daughter was "Rows" and it was also a coincidence that we used this cabbage rose print for the backing!) was displayed at the Mayflower QG “Comfort and Joy” Quilt Show. After the quilt show we sent it to Nancy. We know over the years it has brought her much warmth and comfort.
We have remained in touch over the years as have many members of our community with the Swiss Air families. Several of us have also made children's quilts for the grandchildren of Janet and David who lost their youngest son Monte. That is another story and another wonderful friendship.
Thank you so much to all the quilters helped with this project and to Nancy, Janet and David, Darren and Yvette, Shannon and Dan, Marci and Seth and your families, you will always be in our hearts.