AIDS Quilt panels inspire

Posted Dec. 07, 2010, at 2:26 p.m.
Last modified Dec. 10, 2010, at 2:28 p.m.

BANGOR — At nearly 1.3 million square feet, the AIDS Memorial Quilt is somewhat bigger than most venues can display.

But Eastern Maine Community College marked World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 with a three-day exhibit of panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt in Schoodic Hall and Rangeley Hall.

In Schoodic’s Mathieu Auditorium, the Tom Hanks movie “Philadelphia” played on the screen as a student welcomed those who came to see the walls filled with 12-foot-square sections of the AIDS Quilt, each composed of several 3-foot-by-6-foot memorial panels.

Some were ornate with quilting and ornamentation and maybe even a photo of the person memorialized by the panel. Others were simpler, with messages signed with indelible markers.

“We’ll keep you in our hearts forever” was a common sentiment. Some were signed “Mom and Dad.”

With family photos, love letters and a lifetime of keepsakes, The Quilt transforms statistics and disease into real people who were loved and lost to AIDS.

Established in 1987, the quilt is largest ongoing community folk arts project in the world.

On Sylvan Road, Rangeley Hall exhibited one of the quilt squares spread out on tables, so that visitors could walk around it and see the panels close up, maybe even touch them.

One panel was adorned with five stars, each with the name of someone who died from AIDS.

An intricate needlepoint of a poem on the panel read in part:

Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy. (Alaskan Native proverb)

The NAMES Project Foundation, which is the international caretaker of The Quilt — works to preserve, care for and use the AIDS Memorial Quilt to foster healing, advance social justice and inspire action.

For more information, visit aidsquilt.org.

Over the years, I have seen portions of the AIDS Memorial Quilt on display in Bangor, Rockland and Orono.

When I do, I remember several of the people I interviewed about HIV-AIDS — with names, or without — who wanted to let others know that HIV and AIDS happen to all sorts of people who never thought it would.

The “nice girl” you played basketball with? Your seventh-grade classmate? The nurse? The young mom?

So many have died, and now a good number are living well thanks to new medicines.

The Bangor STD walk-in clinic is held 4:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Health and Community Services, 103 Texas Ave. Physician evaluation available. HIV testing and counseling available by appointment 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 4:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesdays. Testing is $50, but no one is turned away for inability to pay. 947-0700.

Eastern Maine AIDS

Network at 370 Harlow St., Bangor, offers case management services, HIV testing, clean needle exchange, prevention, education and outreach services. 990-3626 or www.maineaidsnetwork.com

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