Towering memory: The backside of "September Souls," a quilt by the late Rosemary England commemorating 9/11, features New York City's World Trade Center Twin Towers, which fell in the terrorist attacks. Staff photo by Mark Bennett
Towering memory: The backside of "September Souls," a quilt by the late Rosemary England commemorating 9/11, features New York City's World Trade Center Twin Towers, which fell in the terrorist attacks. Staff photo by Mark Bennett
America experienced horror, grief, pain, anger and heroism on Sept. 11, 2001.

Many felt inspired to somehow remember the 2,977 people killed when terrorists crashed hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a rural hillside near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Permanent memorials were eventually placed in those three places. Others were created in cities and towns across the United States, even communities with no direct local connection to those who perished. Instead, people hundreds of miles removed felt a bond simply as fellow Americans.

Memorials and artistic remembrances emerged in the Wabash Valley, too. A fountain plaza added to a historic boulevard. A quilt representing trauma and revival. A statue inside a medical building, depicting a firefighter and a rescued child. A mural on a high school’s wall. Nearly 3,000 small white crosses placed neatly in rows on a hillside along an Illinois road.

All were crafted within the first two years following 9/11.

A few still remain as the 20th anniversary of that tumultuous day approaches this Saturday. Their stories follow.

Rising from the ashes

Rosemary England watched the TV news with her husband, Gene, on that clear-skied Tuesday two decades ago. Like millions of other Americans, they saw the stunning images of billowing smoke from the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York after being hit by airliners taken over by terrorists. News of similar hijacked airliner crashes at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and rural western Pennsylvania followed.

Gene England went on to work as an English professor at Indiana State University that morning. He and his students discussed the shocking incidents.

Rosemary England stayed home, reflecting and sketching.

“I got home, and she said, ‘I’ve been thinking about this. I’ve got to do something,’” Gene recalled last month.

“She was just devastated that day,” he added, “and her response was always to start doodling.”

Not aimlessly, but purposefully. After all, Rosemary was a prolific quilter, also skilled in needlepoint, embroidery, crocheting and stained glass. She’d earned a degree in home economics from the University of Texas, specializing in interior design. She was an artist, and her artwork always told a story.

So, the Englands soon were on a road trip to Kentucky to one of Rosemary’s favorite destinations, the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, and to a shop for fabric at a specialty store there. Her mission had begun.

Months later, Rosemary completed a spectacular quilt that artistically captures the events and emotions of a day now known as 9/11. The rectangle spans 63 inches wide and 77 inches tall. It features 1,600 fabric squares. Each square is made from two unique triangles, leaving no two squares identical. They represent the individuals who died in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. A bold red crossing point signifies Ground Zero. Other patterns represent the tangled steel and wire, the fractured buildings and gray dust swirling around that site. She used pins and cloth to depict items found in the rubble, such as a tattered American flag, a teddy bear and a purse.

The eye goes there first. “Always here,” Gene said, pointing to the cross hatch representing Ground Zero on the quilt, which hangs in his apartment. “And then you have to go up,” he added, raising his arms in swooping motion. Above the lower elements that represent the hatred that initiated the attacks are colors and lines rising up in the air, like a phoenix, one of her favorite symbols.

“The human spirit comes out of the ashes,” Gene explained.

The reverse side of the quilt shows the Twin Towers before the attacks.

“The more she worked, she gradually saw the positive,” Gene said, and that perspective added a resiliency to her craftwork.

On a patch on the quilt’s flipside, Rosemary explained her motivation. “Out of pain and helplessness, I began to visualize a quilt of victory over death, and ‘September Souls’ began to evolve,” she wrote. She closes by writing, “May all those who died in the planes, on the ground and in the buildings have peace.”

Once it was finished, “September Souls” was displayed at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, where the Englands worshipped, on the first anniversary of 9/11 and almost every one thereafter. On the 10th anniversary in 2011, ISU’s Cunningham Memorial Library displayed Rosemary’s quilt, which featured an accompanying video explaining its creation. This year, “September Souls” and another Rosemary quilt, “Phoenix Triumphant,” will be displayed in Westminster Village for the facility’s Day of Remembrance activities on Saturday. Gene will do a presentation about Rosemary’s works.

Rosemary England died in 2009. She and Gene, who met as University of Texas students, had been married for 46 years. Her artwork and the inspiration behind it remain, though.

Gene has the quilts, sketches and art pieces created by Rosemary — some while she coped with cancer — hanging and carefully kept around the apartment. “She’s not gone,” Gene said, while showing the pieces to a visitor. “I am surrounded by her.”

Commemorative waters flow

As a kid growing up around 19th Street and Ohio Boulevard, David Felstein always wanted to see water flowing from the World War I-era fountain on the boulevard’s western beginning point.

After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Felstein also felt the need for a memorial space to remember the victims, and military service members and veterans.

Those two objectives merged, leading to the Remembrance Plaza in the median at Ohio Boulevard’s entrance.

The fountain got a makeover through sandblasting, cleaning, new tiles in the basin and a restored water supply. A polished stone bench is etched with a tribute to the 9/11 victims and military veterans. Landscaping brightened the entrance’s original stone pedestal, topped by two lions. A plaque above the fountain carries the phrase “Let’s Roll,” uttered by Todd Beamer — one of the passengers that joined an uprising against the hijackers of United Airlines Flight 93, foiling the terrorists’ plan to crash into the U.S. Capitol.

Felstein’s effort generated $85,000 worth of donations and contributed labor to assemble the memorial. A marker behind the plaza cites those contributors, all except Felstein. “That’s the way I wanted it,” he said last month.

Nearly 150 people attended the plaza’s dedication on the first anniversary of 9/11, including longtime residents and veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War. A veteran who witnessed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 was there, too.

Twenty years after the plaza’s dedication, it’s seen by thousands of passersby day after day, though few may know its purpose. Felstein, now 73 and still living in Terre Haute, makes a point to visit it.

“I drive by it on a regular basis and occasionally sit on the bench,” he said.

He believes people older than 40 tend to appreciate the significance of 9/11 most. “People like me remember it like it was just yesterday,” Felstein said. He’s seen pedestrians pick up litter around it, to keep the plaza clean.

Today, the fountain basin needs some new tiles, Felstein said. It’s still flowing, though. The Terre Haute City Parks Department maintains the plaza and pays for the fountain’s water supply, parks superintendent Eddie Bird said.

Felstein isn’t sure younger generations “know what it’s there for.” For those who do, he said, “I’d like to think when they look at it, that it sparks a memory.”

One year after the attacks, those gathered for the plaza’s dedication were still moved by its meaning. A mother, Rosalind Friend, attended that 2002 event to watch her daughter and other Davis Park Elementary School fifth-graders recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the ceremony. Friend also came to pray, a Tribune-Star story from that day reported.

“Praying for people to know peace — that God is still here,” Friend said then. “That’s the main thing — knowing that he hasn’t forgotten us.”

‘That’s America’

News of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks reached Dr. Primo Andres during a flight back from South America. Somewhere over Mexico, the pilot told passengers “bits and pieces” of information — some initially incorrect — about the airliners crashing into the World Trade Center in New York.

Soon, Andres, his wife and friends traveling with them, and other passengers learned that U.S. air space was being closed. The plane landed in Acapulco instead. The Brazilian airline gave passengers a choice — find ground transportation into the United States, or fly back to Lima, Peru to stay until U.S. air space opened. Most, including Andres and his cohorts, chose to return to Peru. It turned into a five-day extended stay, before the group traveled home to Indiana safely.

“This is where you saw the impact of the United States on the world,” Andres recalled. The Peruvian people “were as glued to the newspapers and TV as we were, concerned about what was going on.”

Beyond rhetoric and politicians, everyday people across the world cared about Americans, he believes. “When you go right down to the people themselves, the feeling is different — their sympathy is with the United States,” Andres said Thursday morning from his office in the Terre Haute Heart Center.

The events of 9/11, particularly the heroism shown by firefighters, police and first-responders, stirred Andres. While shopping in Las Vegas before 9/11, the cardiologist had spotted a statue of a firefighter holding an American flag and shouldering a young girl clutching a teddy bear. After the attacks, Andres recalled seeing the statue and called the shop to buy it, feeling it could honor the rescuers. The shop had sold out of the sculptures, but ordered another. It was eventually shipped to Andres in Terre Haute.

It was placed outside the Heart Center and dedicated on Sept. 11, 2003, in memory of “the heroes of 9/11 — our heart’s out to you.” A total of 343 firefighters died on 9/11. The victims also included people from 90 different nationalities.

“That’s America,” Andres said. “It’s not homogeneous. It represents the world. You can find people from all different walks of life and different countries here. ... It’s an amalgamation of the world.”

The 73-year-old physician immigrated to the United States from his native country, the Philippines, in 1974, two years after his wife came here.

Two American flags fly on the 9/11 statue outside his offices in the Terre Haute Heart Center. One is a traditional Stars and Stripes. The other features the names of the 9/11 victims forming the stripes. Andres often appreciates the flags’ look when they’ve gotten weathered and a bit worn. “Not out of disrespect,” he emphasized, but because of the symbolism.

“It represents the struggles America has gone through,” he said, and how overcoming those adversities has strengthened the country.
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