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Aids Quilt This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   I sat on the chartered bus and gazed out of the window imagining what it would be like to know someone with AIDS or how I would deal with knowing someone who died of it. Sure, we all know celebrities who have contracted AIDS, but what would it feel like to lose someone close to you? I began to feel grateful that I had not experienced that pain.

We're all familiar with AIDS. As a teenager I am forced to learn about diseases that have no cure and can easily take away a best friend or family member. When I was asked to participate in the unveiling of the AIDS Quilt in Washington D.C., I was astonished. The unveiling of the AIDS Quilt would definitely be a memorable experience for all of us.

We arrived in Washington early in the morning. The sun had risen shortly before we arrived and the sky was filled with beautiful colors. I immediately knew that day would be a special day.

In Washington our task was to volunteer at the merchandising booths at the quilt site. As we entered the huge outdoor Mall, which extends from the Capitol building past the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, we saw it was scarcely large enough to hold the entire quilt. I was dumbfounded. I glanced at a portion of the quilt; I had not imagined that this many people had died from AIDS.

Within the merchandising booth I had the opportunity to speak to many men and women who had taken part in the unveiling of the quilt once or twice before. It was an experience they said that you never forget. I later found this to be true.

Because I was a volunteer I had the option of exploring the AIDS Quilt. Not only did I explore it but the people surrounding it also. I walked slowly, trying to capture the meaning of the quilt. I was engrossed by the number of people who had actually come to see it. I watched the people react to different squares. Their reactions were similar, yet some were unaffected. Children ran throughout the site in search of the part bearing a famous person's name and others walked solemnly through the site with tears in their eyes, remembering the loved ones they had lost.

As I was walking I was overtaken by emotion as I read a quilt entitled "To My Brother." On it was a poem written to the young man. Tears began to roll down my face and I felt emotions that I had never experienced before. Why was I crying for a man I had not known? I was merely a stranger staring at a quilt made by his family. Did I have the right to cry for him? I realized at that point that I didn't have to know somebody who had died to feel pain and grief. I only had to imagine what it would be like for the suffering and the loved ones they had left behind. AIDS is not a one man or woman's disease - it is everyone's disease. We deal with it together. We fight for a cure together.

My visit to Washington allowed me to view the pain and heartache each person living with or dying from AIDS feels. I sincerely feel that I have become a different person since my visit. I am more sensitive to the issue of AIDS now. The quilt proved to me that AIDS is a growing problem in the United States, and without the help of people around the country, we will continue to struggle for a cure and understanding of this deadly disease.

My bus ride home was different. This time I glanced out the window thinking of the emotions I had felt while visiting the quilt. I also thought of the families who had to deal with the intense loss of a loved one. I knew these people. I had spent three amazing days with them. They were my new friends. I felt their pain, something I had not felt before. t


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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