Baltimore works patches of lives into murder victims' memorial quilt

March 18, 1993|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

Lula Johnson's patch includes flowers and a sun. Loretta Bailey's is highlighted by a simple inscription. And Delores Snyder-Miller's is decorated with hearts and stars.

They are among about 40 representations of remembrances that make up a special Memorial Quilt honoring some of Baltimore's hundreds of murder victims.

Patterned after the AIDS quilt, which includes thousands of panels commemorating victims of the disease, the Memorial Quilt was conceived and coordinated by the Baltimore state's attorney's Family Bereavement Center, which provides counseling and other services to families that have lost a member to murder. It will be officially unveiled at 6 p.m. Tuesday at a reception at the Department of Education at 200 E. North Ave. scheduled to be attended by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

"Our slogan is 'Gone But Not Forgotten.' The quilt is another way for loved ones not to be forgotten," said Robyn Singletary, a victim advocate at the bereavement center.

Like the AIDS quilt, the Memorial Quilt is an ongoing project to which other families can contribute panels at no cost, she said. Tentative plans call for the quilt to be hung in a victim-witness assistance unit waiting room on the fourth floor of the city courthouse, she said. It also will be brought to the fourth annual statewide memorial service for murder victims scheduled for April 25 at the University of Maryland at College Park.

A similar quilt, being put together by a support group affiliated with the Baltimore County state's attorney's office, also will be displayed at that time.

The individual patches for the city's Memorial Quilt were stitched together by the Rev. Jacqueline Tuggle-Taylor, a volunteer at the bereavement center.

"I felt sad knowing each square represented a loved one," said Ms. Tuggle-Taylor, an evangelist at the House of God Church in Waverly. "No matter who they were or how they died, they were significant to someone."

For those who provided patches, the multicolored quilt -- which includes pictures, dates of birth and death, and hand-stitched messages -- is much more than a pastiche of pain. Rather, it is a symbol of life -- although life snuffed out too soon.

"I put flowers and a sun on my patch because to me a plant is life and my son loved life," said Lula Johnson, whose son, Alim K. Salaam, was shot to death four years ago at age 18.

"The patch is something to keep him alive -- the spirit, the pain, the tragedy," added Ms. Johnson, 52, a medical technician who lives in Northwest Baltimore.

Ms. Bailey's patch includes the dates of birth and death of her only child, Brian Terrell "Bump" Bailey, who was found shot to death in the back seat of a car two years ago at age 22. It also has the embroidered inscription, "You are my life, my love, my son."

"My son still lives in my heart. Not a day goes by that I don't think about him," said Ms. Bailey, 46, a directory assistance operator who lives in Waverly.

Also part of the patch is a picture of her son with a basketball and a trophy because "basketball was his greatest love." Ms. Bailey paid $50 to have the 1-by-1-foot patch professionally stitched. "It was expensive to me, but it's an expense I gladly paid," she said.

Deciding what to put on the patch was a difficult experience for her.

"I felt sadness because I had to make a tribute to his life because of his death," she said.

Bernadette Wooden also felt sadness putting together a patch with other relatives for her sister, Lisa Wilson, 28, who was strangled last spring.

"It's sad that we all as a group had to come together for something like this," said Ms. Wooden, 33, a data processor. She said her sister "got caught up in that life -- drugs, hanging out. It got the best of her. The last year of her life we were aware of her activities. We all did what we could for her."

Her family's patch includes a picture of Ms. Wilson and her name in gold letters, outlined in black velvet.

"It took us a month to come up with what we wanted to do. We wanted it just right. We wanted it nice," said Ms. Wooden. "It's something I can look back on and always remember."

Ms. Snyder-Miller spent almost that long to create a patch for her son, Antoine Snyder, who was shot last year. She decorated her son's name and picture with hearts "to show our love" and stars "because he was a star to me."

"A lot of love was put into it. When I worked on it, it made me feel a little closer to him," said Ms. Miller-Snyder, 40, a program analyst from Northeast Baltimore.

She hopes those who see it will be moved as well.

"I just want them to think if this happened to them, what it would feel like -- the loss, the pain," she said.

"I want them to see what is going on in the world today and to realize how much we cared for our loved ones."

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