30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag by Amanda Davis and Sally Wern Comport

Hello, Amanda Davis! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read.! Thank you for stopping by to discuss 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag.

Amanda Davis: Hi John! Thank you so much for having me. I’m thrilled to be here to chat more about the story!!

Imagine you’re booktalking 30,000 Stitches to elementary school art teachers. What do you share with them?

Amanda Davis: I love this question! As an art teacher myself, first, I would tell them they (along with their art students) are rock stars!! Then, I would share with them that the inspiration to write 30,000 Stitches came from an art lesson that I did with students for the tenth remembrance of 9/11. I strive to teach about the events of 9/11 each year and as the tenth remembrance was approaching, I was searching for a lesson I could do with students. One that honored the lives lost but also focused on the hope and healing that came after. While browsing through magazines, I came across a blurb about a torn and tattered American flag that flew over Ground Zero in the days after 9/11. The flag traveled across all fifty states to be fully restored; touching many hearts and many hands along the way. Later, it returned to New York on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 as a symbol of hope and unity. I knew I found my lesson. That year, students learned about the flag. Students reflected on what it means to be an American (to them), the unique aspects of their identities, and then visually conveyed and unified these elements by crafting our own patchwork flag. It was a powerful and memorable project for both the students and myself.

I’ve always known that art has the power to make difficult/essential topics more accessible and that it also has the power to help us understand, appreciate, and connect with our fellow humans, but this lesson was a wonderful reminder. I hope that the words and art in 30,000 Stitches can empower parents, educators, and librarians to talk to children about difficult events in our history and current day society. We can’t shield children from all the bad in the world, but we can help them understand it and show them how to work through it. We can teach them how to cope…how to move forward…and how to unite. We can remind them of the bright spots within the darkness and of the good in humanity.

Please tell us about the scene Sally Wern Comport captured on 30,000 Stitches’ cover.

Amanda Davis: My initial reaction to the cover was that it filled me with light and hope. The bright colors that Sally chose along with the choice to depict a diverse group of people working together to hold up the flag, perfectly highlights the themes of unity, strength and healing, that are the essence of the story. I’m also happy the cover is inclusive of all types of people since the flag was stitched by diverse communities throughout the United States.

Additionally, the image you’re seeing on the cover depicts how the real-life flag was folded after each stitching ceremony. The Honor Guard would guide participants in a special folding ceremony that began with people lined up around the perimeter of the flag as you are seeing on the cover, and ended with the flag in its special triangular fold. The flag weighed around 50 pounds when folded and was transported across the country in this manner for safekeeping during its travels.

Please finish the following sentence starters: 

Did you know the National 9/11 flag traveled over 120,000 miles on its journey to be restored? That’s almost halfway to the moon!!

Art is so much more than the how to’s such as, how to draw, how to write, or how to sing. Art has the power to help us learn more about ourselves, others, and the world around us. Art is universal. Art is connection. Art is life.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me
who some of the special people were that I got to talk to in my research for the story.

I love getting to know people so connecting with those who were close to the story of the flag was one of my favorite parts about researching and writing this story. They are some of the most selfless and compassionate people I’ve come to know. I’m humbled to have connected with Charlie Vitchers, Ground Zero Superintendent and original keeper of the flag, several members of the Flag Tour Staff, Honor Guard, and Founder and Executive Director of the New York Says Thank You Foundation, Jeff Parness. I could never have written this story without their expertise and generosity. I’m honored that I got to hold space for them to share their own stories. I’m grateful that since the book has released, many others have come forward to share their own connections to the story of the National 9/11 Flag or to the tragic events of that day with me as well. When you put a piece of art or writing out there, you never know how it’s going to be received. These experiences have been an unexpected surprise and remind me of the power and importance of sharing our stories.

Thank you, Amanda!

Amanda Davis is a teacher, artist, writer, and innovator. Amanda received a B.A. in English and Studio Art from Salve Regina University, and a M.A.T. in Art Education from Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She currently teaches art at a public high school in Massachusetts, where writing and reflecting are an integral part of her curriculum. A member of SCBWI, 12x12, and a local critique group, Amanda loves nature, history, dogs, and all things creative. She lives in the Boston area with her partner and rescue pup, Cora.

Sally Wern Comport has been a working artist since her teenage years as an on-staff artist for her father's advertising agency. In addition to her illustration work for newspapers, magazine, and books, Sally co-founded a design firm that creates and installs large-scale works of art in public places. She sees her role as that of visually communicating an idea to engage the viewer in the meaning of the words on the page or the space where they stand. Sally lives in Annapolis, Maryland.

Borrow 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


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