The Washington Post

Lawmakers join quilt effort for Boston Marathon victims

Courtesy of America 4 Boston
Courtesy of America 4 Boston

Lawmakers from both parties carved out time each of the past two days to join a nationwide tribute to the victims of last year's Boston Marathon bombings, signing their names and writing special messages on massive quilts that will be presented to the citizens of Boston next month.

The quilt project, organized by a group of seven mothers from Florida, began as a modest attempt to do something special for the hundreds hurt in the attack last April. But, the project caught fire -- and the women have collected more than 50,000 signatures on hundreds of 6-foot-by-18-foot canvases to date.

The group, headed by Kari Wagner, has toured the country allowing groups from different states, organizations and nonprofit groups to sign the quilt with messages of hope and support.

The D.C. quilt signing was organized by Democratic and Republican leadership teams. On Wednesday, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) organized times for Republicans to affix their names to the quilts. On Thursday, it was the Democrats turn, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) hosting the quilts outside of their caucus meetings.

"The support we've gotten from everyone here on the Hill has been incredible," Wagner said.

Nearly every member of the Massachusetts delegation had signed the quilt by midafternoon Thursday. Rep. Joe Kennedy, who is running the marathon next month, signed it during the morning Democratic caucus, while Sen. Edward J. Markey popped out of the Democratic lunch around 1:35 pm to sign his name and take a photo with the organizers.

While many members of Congress just signed their names, others included specific messages. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) declared "Texas is with you," while the note from House chaplain Patrick J. Conroy, a marathon running himself, included his finish time from a previous race.

Wagner believes that, by the end of the day, they will have gotten the signatures of about three quarters of the members of Congress.

"Everyone has gone out of their way to give us a few minutes to do this for the victims," Wagner said. "It really shows that some things are bigger than politics."

The quilts will be taken to Boston next month, where they will be displayed for the public to sign and then unveiled at an April 20 Red Sox game.

Wesley Lowery is a national reporter covering law enforcement and justice for the Washington Post. He previously covered Congress and national politics.

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