Glenn Scrivner is puttering around the garage of his Camarillo home in preparation for a trip. A retired property manager, he has worked hard in the last year planting and maintaining the gardens and lawns surrounding his house and wants to make sure they are well-tended in his absence.
"I'm hooking up an automatic watering system so when my grand kids stay here while we're gone, it will be real easy for them to water everything," he says, wiping his hands on a towel.
Inside the one-level ranch-style home, Jo Ann Scrivner is tending to last-minute preparations before their flight from LAX to Norfolk, Va., then on to Washington. The home is immaculate, warm and exudes comfort. Pictures of children Brent, David and Lark and grandchildren grace a piano in the spacious living room. A banjo and guitar lean near the wall next to the fireplace, testament to Glenn's love of music.
"We will be very busy. Some friends will be meeting us there," says Jo Ann, a retired school teacher. "There will be lots going on."
The Scrivners have been planning this trip for months.
"It's been quite a while since we have seen Brent's panel. It was very hard for me when we sent it from our house to include in part of the national display," Jo Ann says. "I'm looking forward to seeing it again."
The panel she is referring to is for her son Brent and is part of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. And it is to Washington that she and Glenn will head the following day to see the quilt displayed. Brent died of AIDS in January, 1991, 11 days after his 40th birthday.
A Growing Memorial
A short walk from the Vietnam Memorial along the Mall, the NAMES Project Quilt was displayed from Oct. 9-11. There are striking similarities between the Vietnam Memorial and the quilt.
Both monuments are tributes to people whose lives were tragically cut short. And both are symbols of a government accused of indifference, callousness and political expediency. They are testimonials and focal points for grieving friends, lovers and families.
Both bear silent witness to the anger, pain and disbelief of millions of Americans. And both represent events so divisive to the nation that a national debate on those events continues.
There are equally striking dissimilarities. One monument is fixed, immutable, unchanging and unchangeable, neither growing nor shrinking; dark stone engravings buried with stunning effect in view of two of our countries most-beloved monuments. Next to it, a statue of three young men in fatigues of solid brass, staring blankly, painfully on at the tribute to their fallen comrades.
The other is in constant motion, ever changing, still horribly growing. Bright colors abound; funny, sad and poignant photos, mementos and keepsakes carefully, lovingly sewn or glued to pieces of cloth the exact size of a grave. All joined in another larger patchwork: doctor next to prostitute, third-grader next to grandparent, transvestite next to cowboy, famous and infamous next to anonymous. They are linked only by the cause of their deaths, now part of a huge tribute created by the love, passion and anger of lovers, friends, families, acquaintances and sometimes even strangers.
The Quilt's Beginnings
The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt was started only five years ago by San Francisco resident and longtime gay-rights activist Cleve Jones, with a single panel created in memory of his friend and lover, Marvin Feldman. In June, 1987, Jones organized a group of strangers into a quilting bee in a small San Francisco storefront with the goal of documenting those killed by AIDS.
The idea was one whose time had come. Thousands of individuals and groups from all around the country began to send panels to San Francisco as awareness of the quilt spread. By October, only four months after its inception, there were 1,920 panels. Displayed for the first time in Washington on Oct. 11, 1987, the quilt already covered a space bigger than two football fields.
Now the quilt has become an entity unto itself. Since 1987, more than 3 million people have visited sections of it in over 700 displays worldwide.
There have been four displays of the entire quilt in Washington. It has been twice nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. A documentary film, "Common Threads: Stories From the Quilt," won an Academy Award. Panels representing individuals from every state in the union and 29 other countries are now part of the quilt.
The numbers are staggering. There are 21,000 individual panels, weighing 26 tons and covering a space larger than 12 football fields. The logistics of displaying the quilt in its entirety are daunting, requiring a small army of staff, volunteers and vehicles. Loading eight 48-foot trailer trucks with the 700 boxes of quilt panels to begin the 2,792-mile trek from San Francisco to Washington took 20 staff and volunteers an entire week.