2009-01-16 / Community

Saunders Stitches for September 11

by Keisha Frazier

Doreen Lynn Saunders became wellknown for "An Americana Flag," an artistic expression of her feelings after the events of September 11, 2001. Now, the Queens resident is seeking help for the completion of her next artistic project, "The Americana Stars Memorial."

Saunders embodies the virtues of a true New Yorker; born in Westbury, Long Island and currently residing in Rego Park, Queens, she graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan with an associate's degree in display and exhibit design and a bachelor's degree in textile and surface design. After college, she pursued a career in the apparel and home industries, designing and selling textiles and decorative trimming. Saunders is the author of three books featuring drawings of quilts.

"I've been using a needle since I was 12 years old," Saunders said. She had been sewing, designing her own clothes and practicing other needlework techniques for years, but it wasn't until 1999 that Saunders said she discovered cross-stitching. In direct response to the New York City attacks of 9/11 and with a desire to express her gratitude at being an American citizen, she began to cross-stitch An Americana Flag. It featured LeMoyne stars which are 8-point stars instead of the traditional 5-point stars, because LeMoyne stars are commonly used in quilt design. Saunders' signature technique is to include quilt elements into her cross-stitching designs. Also, every star is unique to represent the many different people from various countries who were affected by the September 11 tragedy. The name "Americana" comes from the perspective that An Americana Flag is not meant to reach just Americans or have any political connotation, but instead, as Saunders puts it, "it's just one artist reaching out." In addition, Americana is an art form that is rooted in traditional American history.

By September 11, 2002, Saunders had completed An Americana Flag. I never owned an American flag before, she said. "I thought it was about time."

Saunders was a member of the Empire Quilters guild and a monthly meeting at the New York Historical Society led her to ask the guest speaker where her flag could be displayed. She was later put in contact with Marilyn Zoidis of the Star Spangled Banner Project in Washington, D.C. who, among other curators, requested that An Americana Flag be donated to National Museum of American History.

"I was very flattered that they requested it," said Saunders, who plans for it to eventually be donated to the museum.

While visiting one of her best friends who lives in Rockaway Park, Saunders spent some time in Rockaway enjoying the beach and visiting the two memorials that are set up along Beach 116 Street. Saunders, who is currently in the process of creating her own public memorial in response to 9/11, felt that the memorial on the Rockaway street presents a mood that is "very respectful, peaceful and reflective without being sad."

The memorial overlooking the bay features the names 70 Rockaway residents who were killed on 9/11 and the 343 firefighters who lost their loves when they responded to the attack on the Twin Towers. The memorial on the other end of Beach 116 Street overlooking the ocean is in honor of the victims of the American Airlines Flight 587 plane crash, which occurred on November 12, 2001.

Saunders explained that she understands the need for a memorial that, as she puts it, "is more hopeful and reflective of our moving forward instead of the loss of the past." Saunders is attempting to fulfill this need through The Americana Stars Memorial project.

She is currently working on this much larger project that she began in 2003. The piece, which can best be described as a wall mural, will consist of 50 separate panels that when placed side by side will equal 200 feet in length.

"It will feature over 3000 stars, all of them cross-stitched by hand. Each star will honor a victim from 9/11, as well as those from the 1993 World Trade Center attack and Sirus, the electronics detection dog," explained Saunders.

Saunders credits her family and friends as being the most important factor in helping her continue with her work. Even the support she receives from her stitchers across the country is a constant motivation to Saunders. While she has only met a handful of her stitchers, she has spoken to all of them on the phone. Of the 50 stitchers who contacted her once word about the Americana Stars Memorial started to spread, over 20 of them still continue to contribute.

Having already completed over 2400 stars, Saunders is coming closer to finishing the Americana Stars Memorial by her goal date set for September 11, 2011 for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy. However, after 5 ½ years of supporting this project by herself, Saunders will not be able to complete the project in time without the help and support needed to provide materials and a big enough space to finish. The memorial is sponsored by Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts organization in New York. All donations are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.

More information about Saunders, the Americana Stars Memorial and how to donate can be found at www.AmericanaArts.com.

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