By BONNIE BAILEY
A firetruck. The Statue of Liberty. Firefighters holding an American flag. Each image is a square on the quilt Anna D’Angona made in memory of Nicholas P. Chiofalo, a New York firefighter and fire chief who lost his life while helping to evacuate people from the World Trade Center.
D’Angona crafted the quilt by hand for her son-in-law, Cliff Messina. Chiofalo was Messina’s uncle and mentor.
“He loved his uncle very much. He was very close to him,” D’Angona said. “I’ve been wanting to do this since 2001, but I really didn’t know how to put it together. This year, I just thought, you know what, I’m going to do it.”
And with the help of a few friends at the Jonesborough Senior Center, where the quilt is currently on display, she did.
“I brought it in and I had all the ladies help me with quilting it,” D’Angona said.
With their assistance, it took D’Angona only about two to three months to finish the project.
The quilt has a patriotic red, white, and blue theme, and in the top center square, a message: “9/11/2001, Never Forget.” Next to those words, in the top left square, is a photograph of Chiofalo. Chiofalo, who left behind a wife and son, was one of six firefighters from Brooklyn’s Engine 235 who lost their lives that day.
D’Angona plans to hand-deliver the quilt to her son-in-law, who lives out-of-state, in September. It will be a surprise for Messina, who is currently unaware of the quilt’s existence.
“It’s been 16 years since 9/11, and I just wanted to do some
thing special for him, some memory of his uncle,” D’Angona said. “I think this will be a wonderful gift for him.”
D’Angona has been quilting for three years. She learned to quilt from other members of the Senior Center, including a close friend she met there, Shirley Chase.
Chase has since passed away, D’Angona said.
“I learned a lot from her, and I miss her,” D’Angona said, noting that learning to quilt had always been a goal of hers.
“Thank God for the Jonesborough Senior Center,” she said, “because that’s where I learned.”
D’Angona said Mary Sanger, director of the Jonesborough Senior Center, approached her about displaying the quilt after she finished it.
“We were just really touched by the care she put into making the quilt,” Sanger said. “I thought it was a really lovely piece, and we thought other members would enjoy seeing it.”
While she has only been quilting for a few years, D’Angona is skilled in crocheting and knitting, which she began practicing at an early age while growing up in Italy. As a child, she and her family members would gather frequently to work on needlework projects.
“(We) all used to sit in a circle and everybody had a different project,” D’Angona said, “and that’s how I learned.”
D’Angona has continued the tradition of teaching needlework to family members. When her granddaughter was six-years-old, D’Angona taught her to crochet.
“She made me the first little crocheted bracelet,” D’Angona said. “And I still have it.”
Now at twelve-years-old, her granddaughter has made her own little crocheted quilt, D’Angona said, and D’Angona would like to see more youngsters take up needlework and quilting.
In the future, she said, she would like to teach needlework to youths, to share the knowledge she has gained over the years and to instill an appreciation for handmade goods in the younger generations.
D’Angona would also like to create another memorial quilt, but this time as a memorial for all those lost on September 11, 2001.
“I would love to do that,” D’Angona said.
If she ever gets the opportunity to pursue the project, D’Angona would like to donate the quilt, which would have the names of those lost on it, for display at the September 11 Memorial in New York.
“I would like to donate it to them so that they’d see that people will always remember them. These people are not forgotten,” she said. “They are still in our hearts. No matter what, they are still with us, and they are going to stay with us.”
The quilt memorializing Nicholas P. Chiofalo is planned for display through the month of August at the Jonesborough Senior Center, which is located at 307 E Main St. You can contact the Center at 423-753-4781.