Trying to find words to express thoughts and feelings about the terrorist attacks on America nearly two weeks ago is a daunting task.
Just when you think you've cried the last possible tear, there is another heartbreaking story. A heroic firefighter. A widowed mother. A search for a child. Ordinary lives shattered on a sunny peaceful morning. Now dust and debris remain. A dented police officer's helmet found in the rubble. Family photos from office desks. A window section from a passenger plane. Underneath it all is an incomprehensible emotional toll.
As the number of the lost climbs past 6,000, it can seem surreal. The lakes area equivalent would be like vaporizing the entire population of Baxter and a chunk of Brainerd besides.
You think about the choices people were forced to make and those who jumped hand in hand to escape the flames in the Twin Towers. You can't help but wonder about the last minutes in the doomed planes and on the towers' stairways and in the Pentagon's fiery hallways.
People are shocked, sad, angry, numb. Those feelings came in an emotional wave flowing from the East Coast across the nation. The effect bound an entire nation in grief.
Americans want to do something to help. We've seen that in the blood donor lines and in candle-light vigils and memorials. Americans are nothing if not problem-solvers and hard workers.
Many area people pitched in to help raise funds for relief efforts. The projects have been as varied as individual imaginations from penny drives to American flag designs made of safety pins and beads.
Diane Hendrickson, Brainerd, was inspired by a pin and bead flag image she saw in a restaurant. Colored pins are placed on small safety pins and then the red, white and blue colors on the smaller pins are linked in one large safety pin. Hendrickson went to work creating 12 pins and gave them away at St. Joseph's Medical Center, where she works.
"Before I knew it everyone wanted one," Hendrickson said.
So Hendrickson made more and collected donations for the American Red Cross. Hendrickson and her 24-year-old daughter Jenny Kiehlbauch made 179 pins and collected $500 for the Red Cross.
"My daughter Jenny sat at the table with me from 3 o'clock in the afternoon to 11 p.m. at night," Hendrickson said.
They bought the supplies -- 1,790 one-inch safety pins, 179 large safety pins, 14,320 little beads. One pin takes about seven minutes to complete. Hendrickson said buying the pin supplies are part of their donation.
Hendrickson said she's been moved by the generosity of people.
"It started out just with my family and it just went crazy," she said. "(People) just want to wear it. Everybody is just proud of their country."
Soon friends and family were also taking pins to their work sites. And Hendrickson said she's been forced to look for more pins by shopping online.
Jane Lintner, Brainerd, made her first pin flags after seeing a version during the Arts in the Park in Gregory Park. Lintner made the pin and bead flags and gave them away for the Fourth of July. After the Sept. 11 national tragedy, the flags took on a new emphasis beyond Independence Day.
Since the terrorist attacks, Lintner made about 300 pin flags. Most of which she gave away. Demand became so great, she started taking donations for the American Red Cross and raised about $100 so far.
"It's kind of my way of contributing," Lintner said. "It makes me feel better -- I can do something."
Lintner is sometimes helped by her 5-year-old daughter Megan. She said family members have taken the pins to work and by the end of the day all are gone.
"Everybody loves them," she said. "... I know we could make hundreds of them and they would go."
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