Background

The three quilts featured in these pages were produced as part of a global program by AP to allow people a creative outlet for their frustrations during the pandemic and lock-down. The program was launched in the late spring of 2020 and has generated over 200 powerful stories from the US, Kenya, Nepal and Zimbabwe as of writing (July 2021). With no end in sight to the pandemic, and infections rising in the Global South, we are still inviting submissions.

These quilts were made from 109 personal stories that were painted or sewn onto fabric by friends of the Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington, North Carolina during the Fall of 2020 and early 2021. AP contributed $500 to offset some of the cost. The project was initiated by Bobbi Fitzsimmons, who coordinates AP’s quilting program and is active at the Museum. It was managed by Heather Wilson, deputy director at the Museum and by Georgia Mastroieni, Director of Outreach and Family Engagement.

Bobbi and Georgia put out the word in late 2020 and were surprised and delighted by the response. They then sent out packages with basic material (fabric and magic marker) to everyone who had applied. Bobbi assembled the stories into the three quilts in March and April.

The quilts capture the full range of emotions caused by the pandemic and indeed may serve as something of a time capsule in years to come. Connie Moser produced a simple blue heart in memory of her mother who passed away one day after being diagnosed with COVID. “Blue was her favorite color and many people feel very blue without her” she says. 

Dr Kyle Horton used her block to celebrate the remarkable work of Open Source, a network of volunteer mask-makers in the Cape Fear area who produced an astounding 10,000 facemasks for use at medical centers during the height of the pandemic.

Sadie Thomas, 5, and her mother Dorothy (photo) used their block to describe their disappointment when Sadie’s 4th birthday party had to be cancelled and replaced by yet another Zoom meeting. They painted four candles and pictures of their Zoom invitees with blank faces.  “We turned off the computer and it was just us,” says Dorothy.

Fritzi Huber, who is active at the Museum and has been making paper for over 40 years, depicted a toilet roll to remind herself of that time when the shelves were almost empty. She sees a silver lining in the pandemic: as well as causing tragedy for many, COVID-19 provided her with a license to hole up and pursue her passion. 

Jean Lozada, originally from Venezuela, also works at the museum and used his block to create a “Mask Monster” in protest against the number of facemasks that are abandoned, creating a possible health hazard.

About 50 artists submitted captions, and none was more moving that the one from Amanda Cummings a nurse who treated many COVID patients at the local hospital and witnessed much suffering during the pandemic. Amanda used her design to describe the intense relationship between a sick patient and a nurse, and included a poem: “Patient: Forget me not; tell my family that I love them. Nurse: I will forget you not; I will hug my family a little tighter tonight. Patient: Thank you for all that you do. Nurse: I’m sorry I couldn’t do more. Family: They sent flowers for the memorial… they were Forget Me Nots.”

AP has interviewed several artists and all said that it had made them feel better to describe their feelings through painting and see their story featured alongside that of other pandemic sufferers. “We are really thankful to be able to make something that expresses what we went through,” said Dorothy. “It is kind of cathartic to look back at the picture and be like ‘Oh my gosh!’”

Bobbi Fitzsimmons, who inspired the project, agreed wholeheartedly. The pandemic struck North Carolina in March 2021 soon after Bobbi returned from a trip to Asia, and she found the sudden isolation deeply disturbing. But Bobbi is an expert quilter and after getting over the shock she began making masks, for nursing homes, friends and Dr Horton’s Open Source network of volunteer mask-makers. 

So far Bobbi has made over 1,300 masks and asked her clients to show their gratitude by donating to good causes. “Sewing these masks gave me the purpose I needed to make me feel less helpless in the face of this pervasive enemy. Sewing these face masks gave me hope.”

The three Wilmington quilts were shown at the Cameron Art Museum on April 22 alongside the quilts from Zimbabwe, Nepal and Arlington and the event attracted a good turnout of local friends, including several artists. Anne Watson, who assembled the Nepal COVID quilt and herself came down with COVID at Christmas, spoke movingly about the expert medical care she had received – in stark contrast to the lack of facilities available in Nepal. Prabal Thapa, a Nepali Peace Fellow who has been working remotely for AP’s partners in Nepal from the US while his country struggles with a new lock-down, also attended.

Other visitors included Stephanie, Layla, Kate and Natalie from the Wakefield High School in Arlington Virginia. All four had contributed wonderful stories to The Arlington COVID quilt and enjoyed their first trip away from home in over a year. Layla and Stephanie – the two Wakefield coordinators – opened the event with a polished address.

The exhibition attracted local press coverage before and after. AP publicized the event through a news bulletin and during the first-ever digital exhibition of quilts, held on June 3. The event attracted over 90 visitors. AP has also produced a collage of video interviews with several artists and will include the Wilmington quilts in a catalogue of COVID stories later in the year. 

The Wilmington exhibition was the first time that all COVID quilts could be physically displayed and marked a fitting end to the long months of lockdown and isolation. “What a nice way to welcome the spring!” said one visitor. “It could not have come sooner….”

The exhibition also underscored the importance of the Cameron Museum in raising morale during the dark months. The Museum stayed open throughout the pandemic, albeit with a greatly reduced staff, and organizers agreed that the COVID quilt project had given the Museum and its members a focus and something to look forward to. It was one more sign that museums are at the heart of community life. AP is proud to have helped.

First Quilt

 

“She Feels Trapped by the Virus”

Marley Terry, 6, used to live at Carolina Beach in Wilmington, NC, but has moved to Denver, Colorado. Her square shows someone who is masked up but still scared: “She’s wearing a mask and feel trapped by the virus even when she is outside.”

“I have made time to paint and draw”

This square was made by Sydney H and revealed new strengths she learned during the pandemic: “My talents are creating works of art.  I have made time to paint, draw and learn to make slime. I am also good at doing lego.”

“It was scary but I got used to it.”

Addison McQuate, 7, is in 2nd grade. “All of the sudden they pulled us out of school. Not long after that I moved to Wilmington, North Carolina. I made new friends, went to a new school, and lived in a new neighborhood. It was scary but now I’m used to it.”

 

2020 – Covid-19 and more… Before Covid-19 was declared a pandemic my year was already off to a difficult start. In January I had my second knee replacement surgery and recuperation was a challenge. Less than half way through physical therapy Covid-19 became a “thing” and my therapists had to cancel sessions for 6 weeks which left me to exercise on my own. I had to toughen up and bite the bullet which didn’t always go so well. I also incurred a slight fracture in my arm and arthritis in my back. Yes this will definitely be a year to forget!Thank goodness for quilting! I still managed to finished multiple quilt projects; one was supported by my quilt ship. To keep customers sewing their website posted a quilt block and directions each week for 12 weeks. I was able to use up lots of “stash” fabric and ended up with my own Covid Quilt. Being home also challenged me to try new recipes and – yes – sourdough bread. I made many loaves and gave many loaves away to family and friends.Being 2020 and modern technology, Face Time became the only way of visiting with family especially during the holidays. Holidays are not the same without seeing children and grandchildren which were all growing up too fast and lived hundreds of miles away. We all know safe traveling was not an option…2020 was definitely a year of mixed emotions but we have been lucky since no one in our family got sick and we are telling the story of our year…

 

 

The weather was mild, nice for the time of year. The season of Lent had just begun, quite normally. The Covid virus had also just begun to appear, everywhere. Churches were especially vulnerable and particularly choirs. Then the churches were forced to close.

There were no Sunday services and the music, my personal favorite, was silenced. This was completely foreign to me as I have attended Sunday worship services for all of my seventy-five years. I felt lost.

Many churches began streaming services on the internet on Facebook and YouTube. You could attend church services in your pajamas whenever it was convenient for you. I remember watching Pope Francis’ beautiful Easter vigil from the Vatican in a nearly empty cathedral. Who knew on Ash Wednesday that what we were giving up for Lent would be Easter!

Things have slowly begun to improve but it still feels strange. We’ve returned to our churches with social distancing, masks and no physical contact. Our pews are showing wear from all the harsh cleaning. There are no faith enhancing activities like bible study or choir practice.

 

 

My ideas by Lammar McNair

You need to wear a mask. I think we should not be able to have large gatherings and also I think the government should supply the things we need if they want us to stay at home.

David, Age 39

Teaching, cat on lap 
Wilmington is on the map 
Almost out of sap 

 

Henry and Martha

We moved all over the country when we were younger. Our children Donna, Willi, Jane, and Drarina were all born in different places and passed down that traveling spirit to their children as well. We moved to the beach here because who doesn’t love the beach! We can’t wait until everyone can visit us again so we can walk the beaches.

Lillian DeVoid

Once Covid 19 started everything changed. Everything shut down, and school went online. Once that happened I couldn’t see any of my friends. I had to do school online which also changed, and all ballet classes went online. Really everything went online. But now it has gotten kind of better with the vaccine and such.

 

How the Pandemic Has Affected Us

We are truly grateful for all the good care our son Danny gets at his group home but it has not been easy on us this past year… For months we have not been allowed to visit him or bring him home for overnight stays – when we were allowed to see him it was once a week for 45 min and we had to practice social distancing – which meant no hugging, no kisses, no high fives, no pats on my head, no holding his hand. These are all the ways we communicate with him and he with us because he is non-verbal. Danny is 27 years old – he was born 15 weeks early- and has lived in a group home since age 12. He has severe developmental delays, mild CP, Autism, non-verbal. He has never been away from us his whole life we’ve brought him home for overnight stays. My quilt piece has a broken heart on it to represent our sad hearts missing him and the stripes on the shirt to represent how we feel he’s in jail and can’t leave. The crazy hair from being unable to get to a good salon. The XOs are for the love we can’t wait to show him once he’s allowed to come home.

 

Lily Sutton

During the pandemic, I learned more about technology and how to use computers. The pandemic also inspired me to write a book, it’s going to be really cool when it’s published. Something new I did was my family held a few more people for church at our house, I think that holding church at our house was really fun. What I enjoyed about the pandemic was doing church at home, spending time with my family, and being able to stay home and bake desserts.

Claire C

My picture is about not being able to travel on planes. Not seeing friends and family, not playing with friends. That is what is in it. It is very hard to do and it’s just a way of life at this point. But you are able to spend more time with family. That is my picture.

 

Angels

Live amongst us
Sometimes they hide
their wings, but there
is no disguising the
PEACE and HOPE
they bring.

Let your light so shine

Second Quilt

 

The pandemic has affected me because we have to wear masks for sports and school. It is really hard for people who have asthma to wear a mask. One of my friends quit sports because he had to wear a mask. I also quit soccer for that same reason. My friend’s dad works in a hospital and even has to wear a mask in his own house!

Karla Holland @thegorgontransplant

I’ve braved through this pandemic using the one tool I have: humor. Honestly, it’s the only we have in such tough times. If it helped our ancestors, it shouldn’t be that different for us. May we benefit from the “strength” they’ve passed down to us.

Layla Sutton

During the pandemic, I enjoyed being with my family more. We went outside more. I did not like the parks being closed.

 

 

The Family of Phillip J. and Cynthia J. Brown

Initially, our family struggled with the sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the confusing messages from the federal government. Our youngest grandchild was living with us temporarily and when his pre-school shut down, the gravity of the situation set in. Spending more time at home did not disturb us as we love being with each other and I enjoy working in my garden. Yet, the uncertainty of the future gave us reason for anxiety.

In addition to COVID-19 we lived to witness the senseless killings of African-American people as Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, questioning the society we live in, and especially after having lived through the Civil Rights era as teenagers. We had hoped that at this stage of life, things were truly better in race relations – not perfect, but better.

It was then that we realized our faith would sustain us as it sustained our ancestors over the generations… the Howes of Wilmington, NC; the Thompsons of Sampson County, NC; the Suttons of Nash-Edgecombe County, NC; the Corbins of Arkansas; and the Browns of Mississippi – all families from whom my husband and I have descended. Continued work, civic engagement and efforts to build better community would be required. I spent many hours reflecting on how my father (a physician) would’ve interpreted the effects of the pandemic were he still alive.

My husband (Phillip) and I looked to the 23rd Psalm, a favorite passage of scripture to sustain us and give us solace when we saw so much fear and anxiety in the community. Food shortages, increased homelessness, sickness, unemployment and death… overwhelming matters in America. It also gave us a sense of calm as we watched violence erupt in plain places such as supermarkets when people refused to embrace safe practices like wearing a mask.

Our square symbolizes the faith of generations of our family. It paraphrases the 23rd Psalm and speaks specifically to how we have sustained ourselves over the past year. It also speaks to how we will sustain ourselves in the days ahead.

 

In the beginning of school I did it online. We did it through Zoom. There were a lot of problems that sometimes occurred during class. It was hard to do school through this but the teachers helped. I used this to express the errors that went on in online school. Some of the ones I didn’t include on my quilt square are that sometimes the assignment doesn’t show up on Google classroom or can’t access the document. Sometimes it sounds very muffley or airy, and sometimes my computer would completely turn off for no reason. Even though there were hardships, I am grateful that I still got to learn and attended school.

“Cat Love” by V. Rugo

During the Influenza Pandemic of 2021, there were many things that cause fear and isolation, but my adopted cat “Spot” helped me combat these problems. I was able to laugh at her antics when there was not much to laugh about. I was able to hug and talk to her when hugging was not allowed and talking limited. I continue to be entertained by her and she makes time move more quickly when every day seems longer than 24 hours and the weeks and months are the same, monochromatic. She is a rainbow.

Zoom by Judith Chandler

Student 
I stare at the screen Today I am nervous Before, when face to face I was not heard 
Before, when face to face I did not ask 
Before, when face to face I did not share Zoom 
It has started 
I am in class 
Everyone is here 
I try to speak 
I am not heard Zoom again 
This day feels different I say my name 
They listen 
I am heard 
I share 
There are questions I explain 
I feel confident Zoom again and again Others share 
I listen 
I ask, they respond 
The teacher explains I understand 
I am engaged 
I am heard 
They know who I am 

Zoom again and again 
I am not shy 
I am confident 
I too am a member of this class Zoom  
Teacher 
I stare at the screen 
Today I am nervous 
Will I be heard? Zoom 
It has started  
Everyone is here 
Will they speak? Zoom again 
Today is different 
They are relaxed 
That girl, so shy 
Speaks 
She shares Zoom again and again 
They listen 
She engages 
They know her now Zoom again and again 
She is confident 
She too is a member of this class 

My Year 

Through the past year, I have spent a lot of time with my friend. So I  wanted to thank her and my family. I also wanted to thank my cat. He follows me around the house and cuddles me at night he is so very cute.

Love Summer

I like how we can spend time together. I don’t like how we can’t go places without a mask. I did not know and is new to me is remote learning. I felt happy because we can spend time together. What inspired me was how people save others who have Covid. 

Jessica, Age 44

Riding bike outside

Our garden beds loved this year

Our new sport: Tennis!

RAP AROUND PANDEMIC 2020 
Written by Denise Hinds-Saami with guidance & by Mother Audrey Hinds’ oversight
Wear Masks, Wash Hands, 6 Feet Apart Stands 
Ar-abs, Mask Too, And Now So Do You 
Please San, i-tize, and Don’t Touch Your Eyes 
Wipe Sur, fa-ces, Clean Up Hers and His 
Stay Home, Less Do, I Miss Hugging You 
Get Out, Ne-ver, Got Cabin Fever 
I’m Bored, We Done, and Get Less Sunshine 
Less Pep, In Me, Low Vitamin D 
You Learn, New Ways, of Spending Your Days 
Step Out, Look, See, and Feel Like You’re Free 
Stay Home, From School, Some Kids Think It’s Cool 
You Jug, gle Life, Like Kids, Pets and Wife 
You Work, From Home, You’re Often Alone 
Stay In, Your Room, and See Folk On Zoom 
Top Half, Is Dressed, They Can’t See the Rest 
You Spend, More Cash, but Feel the Backlash 
Few Funds, Oh Heck, Got Stimulus Check 
Buy Food, Drink Tea, Build Immunity 
Less Ex, er-cise, Weight Gain’s No Surprise 
The More, We Sit, We Feel We’re Less Fit 
Don’t Cough, My Way, I’ll Run from the Spray 
You’re Hot, Your Dry, Your Temperature’s High 
You Cough, You Sneeze, Is This the Disease? 
Is It, Real Folks, or Media Hoax? 
We Dread, We Fuss, Corona Virus 
Who Will, Get Sick, From This Pand-dem-ic? 
Can’t Smell, Can’t Taste, Get Tested With Haste 
Don’t Leave, the Scene, Be In Quarantine 
What’s In, Vaccines, Nothing Bad, It Seems 
Make Meds, Not Smiles, The Tests Need More Trials 
Vaccine, Not Me, Even If It’s Free 
I Don’t, Ac-cept, Injections Just Yet 
Stay Calm, Don’t Flinch, The Needle Won’t Pinch 
It Goes In One Inch, See Now, It’s a Cinch
But If, I Do, I’ll Get One, Then Two 
And Hope, I’m Safe, and My Mask Won’t Chafe 
Don’t Trust, The Lie, That Says You Won’t Die 
Please Un, der-stand, the Risk Now at Hand 
You Ne, ver Know, Till Side Effects Show 
My Friend, S/He died, No Last Touch, I Cried 
COVID, Nineteen, Why Are You So Mean? 
Re-sil, ient, See, Is What We Must Be! 
To stay, A-live, together we Strive! 

 

 

Pandemic Existence – The Masked Era by Carol Sibley-Hood

My husband and I are in our 70s, so when the advisory went out to isolate at home as much as possible and minimize contact with anyone outside of our household, we looked for alternatives. I expected to spend some time painting watercolors, making Japanese Termari balls, and trying out new recipes. My husband decided to tackle a backlog of good books that he wanted to read. 

However, in late March I saw a notice from the Cape Fear Chapter of Open-Source Medical Supplies(OSMS) seeking volunteers to help provide much-needed PPE to community organizations. Soon, I became one of many volunteers sewing cotton face masks – definitely a new skill that took some trial and error to perfect! Initially, our group was focused on providing PPE for healthcare workers and various community organizations that requested them. Some of the more talented made N95-equivalent masks or those with a clear front, and other made face shields. Over the simmer we distributed masks for children, youth groups, and adults as they were requested. 

In September, the founders Dr. Kyle Horton and Mimi Marquis, started a project in conjunction with the New Hanover County Schools to provide PPE kits to returning educators – a daunting task as there are 43 school and, at a minimum, we wanted each kit to contain a hand-sewn mask, disposable masks, and hand sanitizer. Sewing became nearly a full-time job for me! My husband also pitched in cutting fabric and elastic, and delivering finished masks to our assembly location. It was not until February of 2021 that kits were delivered to Laney High School – school No. 43!

We won’t put away our sewing machines just yet, as it looks as though COVID-19 and its variants will be with us for the foreseeable future! It has felt good to be able to contribute to the community. Were we younger, we would have physically assisted with food distribution or another volunteer activity, so the mask project has given us a sense of helping albeit in a limited way.

My Story by Margie L

My story is that when Covid-19 started me and my friends could not talk. Then we started to call and Zoom so now we can talk.

Covid has changed the way could see family because where they live is closed cause of Covid.

I’m thankful for that I’m safe and my family is safe from Covid.

Covid has changed the way to get supplies because it’s harder to find some things that you need.

Alayna McCulley

I drew a dog, video games and my glasses fogging up because of my mask. I drew my dog, Spencer, because I have gotten to spend lots of time with him since I’ve been at home a lot. Spencer helps me feel better when I’m sad, and he has been a source of support and comfort during the pandemic. I also drew an Xbox controller, because I have had lots of time to play video game with my cousin Jack during Covid. We talk on the phone while we play, almost every day and it has been one of the happier things for me during the pandemic. Last, I drew my glasses fogging up when I wear my mask all the time.

My granddaughter and her family arrived in July 2020, so her parents could work remotely and I could oversee school and help with her toddler brother. Our days were very busy! Unlike many, I was so fortunate to have family close by. While here she went to school, starting later in the day than local children. This gave us mornings for the many places Wilmington has to offer. She will never forget The Cameron!

Catherine Cloud

Today I awaken to the song of a solitary chickadee.  Every day there’s so much, the more you look and listen, in one place, a world can open up to you, reveal itself, teach you, give you beauty, provide healing, and create companionship with life in so many forms. It’s all there; growth, change, injury and renewal, and sometimes heartbreak and grief. 

This year has developed my awareness and reverence for the natural world just outside the window. I’ve watched house finches successfully raise a group of siblings, excitedly chippering around, revisiting the nest they built on the platform outside the birdhouse (because bees were living within), only to see another group of 3 fledglings and parents disappear in the night. That one was really hard. They nested on the makeshift platform I  made, close to the front door, and I checked on their progress every morning on my way to make coffee. Joy, then silence, emptiness. In my relative solitude, that family had become my immediate family. For a few days, I refused to believe they were gone – fledglings too young to have flown away – but didn’t want to get too close to the nest, as the mother was hyper-protective, actively deflecting any interest, including that of other finches. I blamed myself for not creating a secure enclosure for the nest. It took a long time for me to come to terms with the metaphor here,  of the cycles of life, of something dying to feed the life of another, of ecology and the balance of nature, of not having control, or acceptance, of appreciating beauty, love, happiness, when you know it, when you have it because we never know how long it will last. And when we have to let it go, let it go with gratitude for what was. 

Watching the changes in spring, autumn, winter, and now spring again, and the rhythm in this, I found solace in such a variety of hard-working survivors, survivors because the natural world can really teach about how quickly things can change. Throughout all the emotional challenges of this year, not only the pandemic but also the struggle to reach a more just equilibrium in society. I could practice orienting myself to be in the present moment with the help of the natural world I was lucky enough to walk out into. This privilege has come into high relief, as so many survivors this year in cramped spaces, without such a view out their windows,  without the ability to simply step out the door and into a small patch of nature, perhaps going to jobs that endangered them daily. The disparities in terms of access to such spaces and to simple necessities like a real grocery store in the neighborhood, safe workplaces, and access to health care, need to be acknowledged and rectified. 

In the smaller scope of one lifetime, I’ve found 2020, etc skills to be the tools to manage the depression and anxiety that have been my demons, my lessons to learn. So, yes, I am grateful for this year, and I hope the upheaval can be fodder for healing and growth, in the micro-and macrocosm

My square contains a fraction of friends and teachers, a baby Carolina Anole on mint leaves (so small),  Beauty Berry bushes with an Orb-weaver spider, a Buckeye Butterfly, a just-blooming Texas Star Hibiscus with a Bumble Bee, Long Lead Pines, a Praying Mantis, and a male Baltimore Oriole and female Cardinal. I’m thankful for this opportunity to share the love, because of what the world needs need now…

Third Quilt

Andrea, 6 years old

I was sad when school closed. I really liked my kindergarten teacher. I got to spend a lot of time with my family. I was afraid of getting sick. I am super happy to be in school and I am going to play soccer for the first time tomorrow on a team. I hope I can invite my class to my birthday party this year!

It’s sad that our country has suffered such a devastating loss. I think about the elderly people that passed away in nursing homes and can’t imagine how scared they were. I remind myself to remain humble and grateful and to never take anything for granted again. Covid 19 has been hard for everyone. My story for Covid 19 is I moved and I could not play with my brother and sister. It was fun but I missed playing with old friends or had to make new friends. I now call old and new. That is my story.

Forget Me Not by Amanda Cummings, MSN, RN, CCRN, NHRMC

P: I am in the hospital and I have Covid. 
RN: I am a nurse at the hospital in the Covid unit. 

P: My family cannot be here. 
RN: I cannot be with my family. 

P: I am covered in gown, wires, tubes and a mask. 
RN: I am covered in a gown, gloves, cap and a mask. 

P: I am struggling to breathe, there is such a weight on my chest. 
RN: I am struggling to breathe, there is such a weight on my chest. 

P: I feel so isolated. Can I video call my family? 
RN: I feel so isolated. Can I video call my family? 

P: Even though I am prone; I am a person, I have a name, I have a face.
RN: Even though you cannot see me, I am a nurse, I have a name, I have a face. 

P: I could not wait any longer to hang out with my friends and family.
RN: Why couldn’t you have waited a little longer to hang out with your friends and family? 

P: I feel so scared and alone and helpless.
RN: I will be strong for you, but I feel so helpless. 

P: Forget me not; tell my family that I love them. 
RN: I will forget you not; I will hug my family a little tighter tonight. 

P: Thank you for all that you do. 
RN: I’m sorry I couldn’t do more. 

Family: They sent flowers for the memorial… they were Forget Me Nots.

 

March 13, 2020 

I had 3 friends over for Mahjong. I decided that would be the last time I would get together with others for a while – until the virus passed. We all know what happened next. I started a flurry of home decorating – sewed pillows, made wall hangings and new picture groupings. I challenged myself to “use what I have” to make new window treatments. I stayed busy all day, every day. I took 3 yoga classes a week via Zoom.

And then one day, I had no motivation to do anything. No interest in cooking a meal or eating it. We quarantined and our son and family did too so we would have a summer visit. My husband has had health problems, and so we remained the careful ones. And I cried about that. I felt so isolated after family left. 

Life eventually worked out and is looking better.  Now I cherish our meals together (Friday night  pizza) and our quiet evenings. As we start going out again, I want to be more discerning about activities – appreciate quiet times with friends. I have learned that I can “make do” a lot. And I can now call up sweet moments with family even though they are far away. I feels like they are with me in every way.

Pandemic Reflections by Carolyn Cook

Objectively, time kept on ticking; clock hands continued to rotate; days turned into nights; nights into days, weeks into months; calendar pages continued to flip over…

 Subjectively, my inner pace of time slowed to a turtle pace. My ‘avoidance motivation’ engaged to grasp the invisible threat of COVID; to bypass potential harmful situations; to cope with not being with family, health concerns; to grapple with canceled events, lack of social interaction, travel, shopping, girlfriend time. The need to juggle a calendar full of appointments, promises, obligations ceased…

Life slowed down, time to breathe, time to simplify, time to embrace the safety of home, my turtle shell, time to pray for those less fortunate and for those working to keep me safe…

Resiliency allowed me to find inner peace and focus on the things I most enjoy but often don’t make time for, like quilting, knitting, cooking, gardening: these are the things that sustained me during lock-down, as well as Believing things would eventually return to normalcy.

I am alive, vaccinated, relieved and thankful!

Dr. Kyle Horton

The COVID-19 pandemic brought the harshest of realizations and reckonings for me professionally and for my family. Like so many, the need to stay home for safety brought with it listlessness and a lack of purpose. When you add to this the stress of my father’s catastrophic cancer diagnosis that metastasized to his brain during this tumultuous time – 2020 pushed our family to the edges. We almost befell the tragedy that far too many suffered in losing the life of our beloved patriarch.

 Instead, we were the lucky ones whose lives were spared, but we did know a heartbreak that we never knew was possible. We knew the soul-crushing agony of being unable to safely hold your loved one’s hand while they are suffering in their darkest hour and unable to speak. As a physician, I am comfortable with death in as much as you can be. But this distance and the depravity of closeness was even too much for me to bear. To know I could not comfort my dad in his darkest hour was seemingly overwhelming.

And for me professionally was the reckoning that having moved into primary care and Veterans’ medical advocacy meant that my skills as an internal medicine physician were no longer immediately and particularly useful. Thankfully for everyone, I would never have to respond in a field hospital or manage your ventilator – skills I was once competent in but no longer. When it was clear that reviewing ventilator settings wasn’t helping anyone, through the tears of watching my colleagues suffer immeasurable loss and without PPE on the front-line; eventually, I found purpose. 

In March of 2020, as hospitals lacked masks and there were no face shields, I saw the helpers rising to the occasion. Millions without experience who had never sown, or knew anything about medical supplies-people who just had an innovative mind, or a sewing machine, or a #D printer – they volunteered. For me, I though: I took home economics for one semester and know how to suture. Surely, I can sew fabric face masks. Well, a sewing machine that survived 50 years could not survive my lack of skill and the COVID-19 pandemic. But only with breaking the machine and more metaphorically my spirit did I realize that my real purpose was as a medical advisor and connector for a group making DIY medical substitutes.

I was in co-leading a group of volunteers who became Cape Fear Open Source Medical Supplies (OSMS) that the listlessness finally faded – the purpose then took over. And where I had failed in breaking my mother’s sewing machine, other stepped up time and time again to sew. What started as a 1,00 masks challenge with significant fear of failure became a 5,000 then a 10,000 mask challenge… and still going. So while 2020 brought harsh reckonings and realizations, I will forever remember the purpose I found in my heart because of the spirit and tenacity of others – and in our Cape Fear OSMS volunteers in particular. I will forever remember the helpers and heroes who gave me hope. So in the words of Superman, always remember, “there is a superhero in all of us. We just need the courage to put on the cape.”

Hope by Jim Downer

As the Sunrise fulfills the promise
Of another day of Love,
So does the Sunset hold the Hope
Of the one that’s
Yet to come.  

 

 

Eliza Jonson

5th gradeCOVID has done a lot to us. Every place you go you wear a mask. Everywhere you stay separated. At school, for a while we could not do group work since that was not separated. We always wear masks- to stores, school, and sports. My ears are tired, but it is what you are supposed to do, wear a mask! However, masks have saved people for getting COVID and have helped control the spread. 

Harmony, Age 8

COVID is not fun 
Lots of people are dying 
Go COVID Vaccine! 

 

 

 

 

Grace by Benji & Angie Kahney

Strength, balance, courage, flexibility, creativity,  resiliency, gratitude and healing are all things that come to mind when we reflect on the year of the pandemic. Everyone has experienced a great deal of loss in so many ways. But one of the ways we have discovered is that the things we have lost, are also the things that we are most thankful for and the things that we find comfort in when trying to move forward.

One of the things we found that we missed the most was sports as we knew it. We missed watching it on TV and in a stadium and playing together with friends. But we soon found new ways to enjoy it and focus on practicing and developing new skills so that when we are able to come together and play again, we can be a better teammate.

Live music and concerts as we knew it changed overnight. Over the summer months especially we felt this loss tremendously. The joy and healing that it brought took a toll. But we were able to find new ways to experience the vibes that we loved. We used this time to learn to play new instruments, explore new talents, discover new artists and listen intently to lyrics to find meaning and resolution like a unique dorm of Therapy.

We missed hanging out with friends, going to shows and the theatre, festivals and events. Simple things like going out to dinner or attending a community gathering were a luxury we no longer had. But we soon discovered new ways to enjoy the company of others, celebrate milestones, and work from home. Zoom was our new best friend and drive-by parades were happy times. We visited with neighbors from our porch engaging in loud conversations across the yard. We used the extra time we now had to plant vegetable gardens, finish projects at home, nurture our creativity and really get to know our family members that we were lucky enough to live with. We played games, we read books, we watched movies and documentaries, we experimented in cooking new recipes, we painted and colored and did crafts, and we talked and listened more. Time was a new gift we had been given.

Time was also a thief as we began to contend with the real fear of losing someone you loved. As time marched on, there was almost no one that wasn’t somehow impacted by someone who has experienced a glimpse of COVID. The reality.

I had purchased a puzzle in December while shopping for Christmas presents. My plan was to bring it into my classroom and set up a social area for students with the puzzle and a few games I had found. But instead, I found myself putting it out on the dining room table at the end of the day when our spring break was changed, our in-person classes were suspended, and we were in the midst of uncertainty as to when we would return to school. It was a nice release to the end of a day of trying to record teaching videos for online lessons and lectures. My cats approved! I hadn’t put a puzzle together in ages, and the distraction was a welcome one.

By Eric

So much anger,
So much unhappiness,
I commit from this
Point in my life
To do what I can to
Spread kindness and happiness
Whenever I can and to
Celebrate life and to
Live each day in
Peace and gratitude.

The pandemic has affected me both positively and negatively. For one, I’ve spent more time with my pets and my family, and been able to do more fun things with them, so I am very thankful for that. It has impacted me negatively because I haven’t been able to see my friends or my grandparents in a while, and when I do see people, I have to wear a mask, and be pretty far away. I think I have been resilient during all of this because I have been taking advantage of all this free time and I have been playing outside, riding my bike, and skating in the street.

 

St. Stephen African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E) Church
Submitted by Mrs. Cynthia J. Brown – Christian Education Director & Church Historian
Strength from our Past; Faith for our FutureOur quilt square represents our church – the congregation, our current leadership, its history and the building that we have gone to for worship, prayer, education and fellowship for generations. Founded in 1865, St. Stephen African Methodist Episcopal Church was established under the leadership of Rev. William Hammaett Hunter, D.D. He served as chaplain of the union troops who marched on Fort Fisher in the Battle of Forks Road, and later Wilmington.By 1879. the church had outgrown the small wooden structure initially erected at North Fifth Avenue and Red Cross Streets in Wilmington. Membership was over 1,000. So through collaborative efforts with people of other faith, race and ethnicity, the current edifice was built, with a four-story annex erected between the years of 1913 and 1915.The sanctuary was home to numerous worship services including the worldwide A.M.E. Church General Conference of 1986. During the 1898 Racial Massacre in Wilmington, the officers and pastor of the church were besieged by threats of violence by the Red Shirts but survived. And in the earlier years of the twentieth century St. Stephen provided recreational, educational, medical, and social services in its annex.During the COVID pandemic, St. Stephen closed the doors to its facilities but gathered as a congregation on virtual platforms to continue its worship, prayer, and Christian studies. Using prescribed safety measures, the church has sewn masks, delivered food and health/sanitations supplies to those in need, donated funds to aid those in need, provided scholarships for youth pursuing higher education and continued its collaboration with other community partners. We have also served as a supply distribution center for the North Carolina Conference of the A.M.E. Church serving as conduit for the more than 90 churches in our Conference.Today, more than 155 years since its founding, St. Stephen continues our legacy of faith, drawing strength from our past, having faith for our future and continuing our legacy of service to the community. Following is a reflective thought and passage of scripture from a church member about living through the pandemic:“As we have gone through an entire year of devastating circumstances that resulted in feeling unsure about positive outcomes, I had to deepen my faith and trust in God. I often listened to music and these confirmed it all: ‘In times like these we need a savior. In times like these we need a savior. In times like these we need a savior. In times like these we need an anchor, be very sure that your anchor holds and grips the solid rock, the rock is JESUS.’ I put my confidence in Him.” Hebrews 6:19 – Dawn McClammy

 

Bobbi Fitzsimmons, Maskmaker

On March 13, 2020, I returned to the US from a three-week trip to Southeast Asia to find a very different world. Borders were closing, schools were closing, stores, and restaurants, and theaters were closing. Many of us were afraid of this new, unseen enemy – COVID 19. For the first two weeks home, I voluntarily isolated because of my travels. I didn’t leave my house. Friends left food on my front porch. All further trips planned for 2020 were canceled. My family was suddenly out of reach and I didn’t know for how long. It would have been so easy to just Retreat.

But I needed a purpose and I quickly found it in making face masks. Face masks, like many other things to help us contain the virus, were clearly in short supply. But I had fabric and I had time. So, I began to sew, not sure where I’d find takers for my masks. The first ones I donated to Trinity Grove nursing home, to the people who had taken such good care of my husband during his last months. I gave them to friends, and friends began asking for more to give to other friends. I discovered Open Source Medical Suppliers and realized just how great the need really was. I sat at my sewing machine for a couple of hours each day and made masks that were donated to schools, doctor’s offices, nursing homes, and underserved communities. As of this writing, I’ve made over 1,300 masks – never taking a penny for them, just asking those who could pay it forward.

These little fabric face masks provided benefits to many. They provided a level of safety to frontline workers, they showed people that there were those who cared, they created new friendships as OSMS sewists met online for regular meetings. Most of all, sewing these masks gave me the purpose I needed to make me feel less helpless in the face of this pervasive enemy. Sewing these face masks gave me hope.

Now, along with so many members of the Wilmington community, I’ve created these Pandemic Story Quilts to remind us that we have been through a life-changing experience. In the experience, we have felt sadness, grief, and loss. But we’ve also found humor, strength, and perseverance. We are resilient. Life will get better and we will have learned from this experience. I know I have.

COVID-19 Collage by Barbara Hart Anderson

After much thought about the last year I could not separate any one event or incident which specifically changed me. 

Rather, we have all been changed by the many cascading consequences as we navigate the ever-changing responses to survive COVID-19.

What COVID-19 has made clear to me is life is precious. Our Democracy is precious. Our health and safety is precious. And, all of it can be taken away by others acting in fear or disregard to others. Yet, I have witnessed many momentous events this past year. 2020 has certainly been a year of pain and loss. However, it has also been a year of remembrance, celebrations and firsts. My hope is that my collage will touch on many events which you also found momentous as well.

March 18, 2021

Being a seventh grader in March 2020 sucked. Everything closed, my grandmother in NY became sick, and I could visit or help her; she wouldn’t allow it. Online school was easy and boring and I actually missed my teachers. Sadly, the only time we left the house for the first few days was to food shopping, and my mother would run into the store by herself and I would wait in the parking lot with my dad. It seemed like there were two worlds – NYC and NC didn’t seem affected the same way, and my grandmother’s stories and the news were a constant reality check.

The summer dragged on and people clustered into social circles, and my world became so much smaller. We started going to the beach and the pool and my parents were adamant about staying active and my immediate family has bonded in a way that I could not have imagined by sticking together. My skills as an artist have radically improved during this time, and my strengths are my individuality and commitment to family. Thank you for reading my story.

 

Barbara Dolny-Bombar

The panic set in during the first quarantine. Prior to that, I kept up with the news about the growing spread of the Coronavirus, but had doubts when a friend in Seattle told me there was talk of shutting the entire city down. How could that ever happen in a place where everyone is in constant motion? And then it did. There is Seattle, here in North Carolina, and everywhere in between. 

A monster was on the loose, far worse than anything we had been exposed to during this lifetime. A ruthless killer with no set pattern that attacked without warning. We were told to wait it out; it would be over soon. But it only got worse.

Soon, the numbers of the dead became names, and the names became those of people I knew. Of those people, most eventually recovered, some are now known as “long-timers” – those who still have lingering issues, and some are now Covid-19 mortality statistics. 

One of the most difficult losses was a master carpenter who became a family friend as her built a new fence around our backyard to replace the old one destroyed by hurricane Florence. He also built the Little Free Library I have in front of my home – using reclaimed wood because he preferred to recycle and repurpose things to help our earth. Our friend became ill with Covid-19 and was hospitalized. Less than a week later, he took a turn for the worse and died. He was a kind and gentle soul.

Throughout this time of uncertainty, loss, fear, and sorrow, the silver lining for me has been the arts. Arts programs nationwide have always topped the chopping block when budget cuts loomed in schools, in local, state, and national funds distribution, and whenever something needed to go. Yet, it was the Arts that stepped up to help a grieving world cope.

Instead of shutting the world down, the Arts brought us together. We are treated to free nightly opera performances at the Met, Broadway shows, ballet and dance programs, concerts, virtual tours of museums, historical sites, and the world. We can take online classes and workshops. Major film festivals and Arts conferences became accessible to all. The Arts have been taking our minds off what we can’t do and giving us back so much more. Please remember this when things eventually turn around. Support the Arts the way they support us now. 

My quilt square is dedicated to the memory of Victoriano De Los Santos Cruz. El fue un buen hombre.

NC Coastal Pines Girls Scouts – Troop 1823
Carmen, Joi, Lucinda, Michaela, Natalie
Girls Scouts Troop 1823 is a small, diverse group of girls at the Daisy, Brownie, Cadet and Senior levels. Our troop is sponsored by St. Stephen A.M.E Church as part of our Christian Education and youth ministries.During the Pandemic, we have played it safe! But we have also had lots of fun learning new things and new ways to have fun while on “lockdown”. Our activities have included learning more about seasonal gardening, selling cookies and learning about entrepreneurship, and participating in World Thinking Day (a Girl Scouts activity that teaches us about other cultures and encourages us to embrace diversity). We even made out first video this year! COOL! It’s been hard being out of school or only present part-time. But we believe in our hearts we’ll get through this. While we wait, we’re enjoying the outdoors!

L. Danyce Dicks

With the unknown and unimaginable, my life was in havoc as I had to deal with COVID! The quickness and unexpected arrival brought changes that I had to address immediately to move forward – decisions had to be made for my peace of mind.

But Jesus… came through right on time to reassure me that this too shall pass! The spiritual side of me took over and carried me through and continues ~ it did not mean that I would not have some dark times; however, I don’t linger there for long. Some of the old songs of the church began to make a lot more sense:

“Precious Lord, Take My Hand
When Peace Like a River
We’ll Understand It Better By and By
What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

The bottoms line, that through it all … Pray, have
faith, believe. You will make it through each moment
and the reality is… I am doing just fine – thank you, Jesus!

 

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. – Alpha Psi Omega Chapter
Submitted by Mrs. Cynthia J. Brown, Chapter Archivist
Founded on the campus of Howard University in 1908, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority was the first Greek letter organization established for college-educated African-American women. By 1913, the sorority was incorporated to ensure its perpetuity. It is rooted in concepts of sisterhood and supreme service to mankind. The local chapter was chartered in Wilmington, NC by five visionary women in the home of Dr. Frank Avant in 1932. For the past 90 years, the chapter has built a legacy of service in the local community. From civic, educational, nutritional, social and recreational opportunities for children and families, the Alpha Psi Omega Chapter has been a leader in our Community.During the pandemic, the Alpha Psi Omega Chapter has stopped in person meetings and currently utilizes virtual platforms to conduct meetings and to set strategies for service in the community. The chapter strives fervently to maintain sisterly bonds amongst members through safe and healthy activities. Embracing the sorority’s five (5) program targets, the chapter has worked fervently to continue service during the pandemic through programs that encourage education with a focus on HBCUs, appreciation for the arts, health and wellness, assistance to immigrants and refugees and assistance in economic planning.From sewing masks to civic engagement, the chapter encouraged safe and healthy lifestyles during the pandemic. Through the work of our Graduate Advisor, mentoring, support and encouragement were provided to undergraduate members of the sorority at UNC-W (Omicron Phi Chapter). And celebrating our chapter’s history, the chapter found safe ways to catalogue history, interview some of our longest standing members and begin donations to UNC-W’s new Center for Archives and History at Randall Library.The pandemic quilt square submitted by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated/Alpha Psi Omega Chapter symbolizes the spirit of the chapter during the pandemic – “Resilient Pearls Serving through Changing Times”

 

Your Face
by Christine Moughamian

Your face
– Mouth and nose Masked
-Your face
– Eyes pouring out
Smiles like Sunbeams –
Your Face
has become the temple
with eyes that search
for the good in the world.

Will your eyes
See
in my face
– Mouth and nose Masked -Will
your eyes see in my eyes
– Sunbeams –
Pouring out smiles
From

The temple with eyes that
Found
The good in the world?

 

Blue Hearts

A little over ten years ago, I made a quilt for my mother on her 85th birthday. It was a “heart quilt,” pieced in blue fabric – blue having been her favorite color.

In January 2021, my mother passed away soon after testing positive for Covid 19. This block of blue hearts made from remnants of the fabric from the original quilt is a tribute to my mother, a woman loved by many and whose passing has left many family and friends feeling blue.

 

Now and Then by Jeanne Rotunda Weinberg

A year passing by in the slow motion of emotion An art class, get out the vote, please wear that mask Now and Then 

Virtual cocktails, birthdays, funerals and book clubs Now is the time for tears as we share in loss, as we  say goodbye to those we do and don’t know But then, something is being born, in this moment, in  this time When the external world get smaller, the internal  expands 

As we adjust, we see more 

Sometimes what we see scares us 

Sometimes it is the exquisite now as found in a bird on a feeder, family on the other end of a screen, a friend laughing 

Then, as now, precious moment are what is left.