BYRON, Ill. - The events of 9/11 still resonate in the memories of many Americans - where they were on that day, what emotions were felt, what call to action it may have motivated. For Byron Station employee Teri Jahn, the attacks inspired her to help a volunteer effort that is ongoing to this day - stitch by stitch.
Jahn, a Dixon resident, joined America's 9-11 Memorial Quilts volunteer organization shortly after the attacks. The group is made up of more than 500 members across the nation who sew separate images of 9/11 victims and symbolic renderings that are later joined into one big quilt.
On Friday, Sept. 10, Jahn will give a speech at the Pentagon during the formal dedication of the group's newly completed memorial quilt that was stitched in honor of those killed at the Pentagon. Michael Rhodes, director of administration and management at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, will preside over the unveiling of the quilt.
"After 9/11 I was online reading the stories of the victims that their families had posted," Jahn said. "The stories were so moving that I wrote many of the families letters of support and included a poem at the end to maybe help them cope with the grief."
It was the poem that prompted one of the victim's families to write back to Jahn, thanking her for the kind words and telling her of a woman in Florida looking for help with a quilting support group she had started. Next thing she knew, Jahn was the communications manager of America's 9-11 Memorial Quilts.
"I was tasked with contacting the victims' families and getting their approval to include a photo of their loved one on the quilt," Jahn said. "As you could imagine, sometimes those discussions got very emotional."
Jahn said days of work at Byron Station as a Radiation Protection Technician were followed by long nights making contacts and working on the quilts. Thousands of volunteer hours have been intertwined with trips - on her own vacation time and at her own expense - to give speeches on the group's work and to visit with those affected by the events.
She wouldn't have it any other way.
"I have documented a lot of those conversations and stories with victims' families for my own keeping," Jahn said. "Someday I will share them with my grandchildren to be sure they know what this country - and especially those families - went through."
The Pentagon quilt is the eighth of nine planned quilts by the group. The seven quilts already completed honored the New York Fire Department, the Port Authority Police, the Port Authority Staff, United Flight 93, New York's Emergency Medical Services, the New York State courts, and the largest of the quilts - the Victims Quilt. The ninth quilt will honor the New York Police Department.
More information on the volunteer group America's 9-11 Memorial Quilts can be found at www.911memorialquilts.com.