With the fabric of lost lives in the background, about 60 people shared memories, prayers and tears as they observed World AIDS Day in Westminster Sunday.
A grant from the Carroll County Arts Council to the Names Project Foundation in San Francisco brought 64 panels of the AIDS quilt to the local Celebration of Hope and Love.
Those simple pieces of cloth provided the most poignant and telling testimony of the devastation wrought by the AIDS epidemic.
"If you want to make any sweeping judgments of who gets AIDS, this will stop you really fast," the Rev. David Highfield, pastor of the Westminster United Methodist Church, said as he pointed to the panels. "These people are all coming from different journeys. HIV does not discriminate, and it knows no geographic boundaries."
Highfield prayed that the service would create a place of healing where "memories would emerge, tears flow and laughter echo."
Participants lighted candles to honor loved ones lost to acquired immune deficiency syndrome and walked solemnly among the panels hanging in the Great Hall at Carroll Community College.
"Look at what has happened and how many we have lost," said Linda Stromberg, AIDS case manager at the county Health Department. "We have glimpses of lives on these panels; how wonderful they all were, how much potential they had and how they are all gone now."
The hourlong program, organized by the Carroll County AIDS Alliance, provided grim statistics and hope for a cure.
"The greatest reason for hope is in this room," said Dr. Linda Cheever, an AIDS fellow at Johns Hopkins Hospital who runs a monthly AIDS clinic in Carroll County. "AIDS has affected the fabric of Carroll County and those who live here. This community is growing in its acceptance."
Highfield urged participants to study panels memorializing a wife and mother, two brothers with hemophilia, a child, many young men and a cleric whose red stole was stitched onto one panel along with his name and the words "speaking the truth in love."
"Every person should be considered a person of sacred worth," Highfield said. "No one should suffer the pain of rejection because of personal health."
About 70,000 names are inscribed on 40,000 quilt panels, which was displayed in entirety in Washington two months ago, perhaps for the last time because of its growing size.
Steven Silberman, father of an AIDS patient, read the names of those whose panels will decorate the college hall through Dec. 13.
"How many names will it take?" he asked. "Please reach out and embrace those living with HIV and AIDS."
Many who viewed the exhibit Sunday plan to add to it. Melinda Byrd and her sisters, who lost their brother to AIDS last year, have been sketching images for a quilt. Nancy Horn is completing a panel her son started before his death in September. She plans to hang the square with the college's exhibit.
Regina Eagle came for inspiration and comfort. Her brother's panel will include several photographs of a 29-year-old man who "always liked to be the center of attention." Eagle said she hopes the stitching will help her cope with her loss.
"A lot of people don't realize the numbers of people with AIDS in Carroll County," Eagle said. "They think it can't happen here."
The college will hold daily observances at 12: 15 p.m. and 6: 50 p.m. through Dec. 13 in the Great Hall, 1601 Washington Road. Information: 876-3880.
Pub Date: 12/03/96