Rego Park woman stitches over hole in heart left by 911

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Rego Park resident Doreen Lynn Saunders can be seen all over the city — from the subway to Shalimar Diner in Flushing — stitching the more than 3,000 stars that will one day create a memorial project to honor each person who died on Sept. 11, 2001, as well as in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

The Sept. 11 museum in downtown Manhattan plans to display the project, which Saunders has been working on for the past 5 12 years. The final project will be more than 200 feet wide and will display the name of the victims below each uniquely cross−stitched star — each of which take about one to three hours to make.

“I have been called the Star Lady of New York,” Saunders said. “I stitch on buses, on the subway, in waiting rooms and in diners. You can probably find me most Mondays stitching in the Shalimar Diner.”While Saunders, a lifetime New Yorker who has worked for decades in the apparel and home furnishings industries as a textile, trimmings, and product designer, did not lose anybody she knew on Sept. 11, she felt as though she “lost a chunk of myself.”

To work through the trauma she experienced after Sept. 11, she decided to cross−stitch a 2−foot­by−3−­foot American flag, which she finished on Sept. 11, 2002. Once she wrapped up that project, which the Smithsonian National Museum of American History has asked her to donate, Saunders decided she wanted to embark upon something much more ambitious.

“I want to create a constellation of victims here on earth,” Saunders said of the memorial project, which probably will be finished in time for the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 and which she expects to be shown in the Sept. 11 museum.

The stars will be displayed on 50 panels, each measuring 2 12 feet by 4 feet. Quotes and portions of speeches and songs will be stitched atop each of the panels, such as phrases from the Gettysburg Address and the “Star−Spa­ngled Banner.”

Finishing the project is a big feat, but Saunders does have some help. About 17 people from New York to California are helping her to sew the stars, and the Rego Park resident has received donated supplies from groups like Charles Craft, Robinson−Anton, Dazor Manufacturing Co. and the Warm Co.

Despite all the help, Saunders said the project is a large undertaking and she has started to dip into her retirement savings to pay for it. She is talking to local corporations about the possibility of their donating to the memorial.

While the project has taken much of her time and money, Saunders said she cannot imagine her life without the memorial in it.

“This project is very personal,” she said. “Even if it wasn’t going to be displayed anywhere, I would stitch it all anyway. I want to create a memorial that is something that people can look at — be able to honor the memory of those who died, but leave them feeling hopeful about the future. I wanted something that will hit people emotionally.”

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Updated 6:40 pm, October 10, 2011
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