Paula Eaton was home on Sept. 11, 2001 and able to turn on the television just minutes after the first plane hit the World Trade Center. For the rest of the day she watched the news reports and cried.
"I couldn't believe it was happening," Eaton said. "I felt really helpless to do anything."
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A nagging need to do something plagued Eaton as she wrestled with her grief. The next day she went to Hobby Lobby, bought a cart of material and got to work. For almost 16 hours straight she kept at it, obsessed with finishing.
The final product was 9-feet by 6-feet, with 13 stripes and 50 stars.
Eaton calls it a banner, rather than a flag, because over the next few weeks she printed out pictures of the towers and newspaper clippings to add to the white stripes. The photos show a chronological look at the attacks with information about the people who were injured and killed.
"The whole banner itself is a memorial to 9/11 and the people who lost their lives that day," Eaton said.
For the last 10 years, the flag has traveled throughout the region.
It was displayed at a Republican Party dinner, a school, a fire department, the South Elgin Fourth of July parade, a restaurant, the South Elgin Lions Club. It hung at the Wayne Township Senior Center for more than eight years while Eaton worked there.
Now she is looking for the flag's next home.
Eaton plans to offer the piece to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in Manhattan for display. She said she wants it somewhere so people can see it and would also consider donating it to a local organization to display as well.
"I would like people to remember 9/11," Eaton said. "That's something that we just cannot forget," Eaton said.
The South Elgin woman has always been the crafty type, sewing clothes and doing smaller projects over the years. But she never did anything as large or quite like this. It is a solid piece of red felt with white material added for the six white stripes. Blue felt, topped with white felt stars completes the flag. Almost 100 images fill the white stripes, a testament to the innocent lives lost 10 years ago.
Even now, a decade later, Eaton can't explain why she chose that method as an outlet for the sorrow and anger she felt after the attacks. But as one person who felt she couldn't make a difference, at least she made something.
"It impacted me more than anything I can say in my entire life did," Eaton said.
If you have an idea of where Eaton's creation can be displayed, email her at email@example.com.