Local woman lost her own heroic fire-fighter in 1998 blast, and pledges to return the love she felt...
Residents of Varina want to send patchwork quilts to the families that lost a relative in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The problem is they have to make more than 4,000 quilts and they'd like to have them delivered by Christmas.
The idea was grand. In the middle of rural Iowa, far from world events, Betty Nielsen and her friends wanted to do something memorable for the grieving families.
Each quilt takes as many as 30 hours to complete. They will need help. They will need a miracle.
"This is going to be impossible, I know, unless we can get the word out,'' Nielsen says.
So what, exactly, gives Betty Nielsen the notion that she can organize and deliver more than 4,000 quilts by Christmas?
"I had to do something,'' she says.
Like millions of Americans, Nielsen watched in horror as the World Trade Center towers crumbled and as hijacked planes crashed into the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.
She had donated blood.
She gave money to charities.
"I just felt like I wasn't doing enough,'' she says.
And then she thought of quilts.
"I guess I thought of Christmas,'' she says. "The way I look at it, these families are going to have a loved one gone. I thought maybe a quilt would give them a little warmth, a little caring, to let them know that people love and care for them.''
Nielsen called her friend Pat Archer of Albert City. She told Nielsen to count her in.
Archer knows exactly how good it feels when strangers reach out to offer comfort during times of loss. Three years ago, her older brother, Tom, 46, and another volunteer member of the Albert City Fire Department were killed when a propane tank exploded.
They called their friends at the churches in Varina. The town is so small that Catholics and Methodists join forces for dinners and other projects.
That's how Nielsen's farm home turned into a quilt-making factory last week. Nielsen and Archer cut pieces of cloth. Norma Gehrig and Bernetta Pudenz work the sewing machines. Mavis Schumann pinned pieces. Her sister-in-law, Jo Schumann, ironed patches of cloth, called blocks.
Some quilts contain inspirational photographs that have been ironed into the cloth. Some contain the words to the Pledge of Allegiance. One says God Bless America.
Nielsen knows the challenge that lies ahead is totally insurmountable.
To read the rest of this story look in the Tuesday, November 6th Pilot Tribune.