I’ve seen the AIDS Memorial Quilt twice in my life. To say that it has great meaning, great significance to me, would be a vast understatement. Seeing just some of the panels is enough to break your heart with sadness and with joy, but when you are from one of the marginalized communities AIDS first effected, it takes on a whole new meaning.
Like every virus, it didn’t effect just those first infected. It spread. It adapted. It yearned to find more, and yet even more people. Some people fought that spread; some people aided it. Some people poured gasoline on the fire and devoured the pain and suffering the virus causes like it was delicious. Some still do.
Tens of millions of people are now infected, worldwide. Now, the quilt and the people it represents, include such a large cross section of humanity that it is as rich, as diverse, as conflicted, and as wonderful, as humanity is. Each panel is a symbol of love lost, love given, love taken, love remembered. Each panel is a collection of memories about someone. Each one represents a life lived, life most often cut short, early.
The people who helped to pull the project all together and keep the project alive, over the decades, deserve more praise than anyone would ever be able to give. I’m glad people try though.
For the first time you can search the digital image of the entire quilt! That’s 48,000 panels. To see them go to AIDSMemorial.org, the website of the National AIDS Memorial.