QUILTS BRING COMFORT
By Chris Potter
For The Observer
Rhyanna DeTuathana knows tragedy. From losing family members, to caring for strangers as an emergency room nurse, she has seen the importance of being comforted by someone who cares. Of all the options at her disposal, she prefers the comforting qualities of quilts.
For about a year and a half, the La Grande woman has been designing and making quilts for the firefighters of New York City. She has sent quilts to wives who lost husbands, sons who lost fathers, and fire departments that lost workers in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
She coordinates her quilting efforts with a group of other quilters on an online Yahoo! group. The group has also made quilts for Coos Bay firefighters, and families of burn victims in the Oct. 12, 2002, Bali, Indonesia, night club bombing.
DeTuathana has been making the quilts with the belief that our public servants are often under-appreciated for the tragedies they endure.
"It affects them," she said. "They're not machines."
Seeing battered children was one of the hardest things about her former work in a hospital emergency room, said DeTuathana, but it allows her to better empathize with what many of the New York City firefighters went through.
One of DeTuathana's current quilts depicts a map of the United States, with photographs of different fire stations around the country. She intends for the quilt to show the unity of the nation's support for the New York firefighters.
"They'll know the whole United States is thinking of them," said DeTuathana.
She has received letters thanking her for her quilts. One was from Jackie Cannizzaro, the wife of New York firefighter Brian Cannizzaro.
Detuathana made a quilt for Jackie and one for her son. She also sent a poem that she had written, "On Angel's Wings."
"Your poem brought tears to my eyes," wrote Cannizzaro. "Brian was so unbelievably special and it seems as if you somehow knew that."
DeTuathana is taking classes at Eastern Oregon University and hopes to pursue a legal career in Portland. For now she continues making quilts, and shipping them off as fast as she finishes them.