13-year-old honors coronavirus victims with 'COVID Memorial Quilt'

Meet Madeleine Fugate, the 13-year-old who created the Covid Memorial Quilt in an effort to represent the many lives lost by the coronavirus. Although it started out as a history final for her eighth grade class, it has evolved into a global representation of healing.

Video Transcript

KATHERINE FUGATE: She's only 13, and I think we all need to sometimes remember that. A 13-year-old girl can see what's going out in the world. There is a lot of darkness. Her response to that was to create light and create goodness, and to me, that is a lesson for all of us.


MADELEINE FUGATE: My name is Madeleine Fugate, and I'm the creator of the COVID Memoir Quilt. It started in history class. My final was a community action project. The theme that year was "Little Change Makers in a COVID-19 World." My mom told me how she worked on the AIDS quilt and how it's a really healing experience and almost magical as well. So I thought, well, why don't we do it again?

KATHERINE FUGATE: I worked on the AIDS Memorial Quilt in the 1980s. I was a young activist, and I had lost someone I loved dearly to AIDS, HIV. It came from a place of, you know, extreme grief and anger and frustration. She got the idea, actually, of the COVID Memorial Quilt just by me talking about my experience. We also contacted the board of directors of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. That really helped us shape the quilt, the dimensions, the size, the materials we use.

MADELEINE FUGATE: Memorial square is an 8 by 8 piece of fabric that is represented as someone or a group of people. This one, um, it was just a white scrap of-- white piece of cotton that their family and friends drew all the things that represented this person. They drew a picture of his face, all the things he loved or that represented him.

KATHERINE FUGATE: This man, Rick, played the piano in the lobby for a building in New York. And this fabric, they made it out of a staff linen shirt, and then wrote his name and put an image of a piano.

MADELEINE FUGATE: Whenever we receive a square, we always catalog it in our, um, quilt binder. And so it has all of, like, the packaging and all the letters that come with squares so that we will always know what the squares meant to the people who sent them.

KATHERINE FUGATE: What we love about receiving letters is it makes the square come alive to us. This is a person that was lost. Like the whole mission statement of the COVID Memorial Quilt is they aren't numbers, they're people. When you receive a personal letter and a square with their image and things they liked-- and then the letter tells you even more-- it reminds us how much these people want to be remembered.

MADELEINE FUGATE: This project started out as my history final. Now it's grown into so much more than that. It's a healing experience for everyone who's lost someone.

KATHERINE FUGATE: The quilt will not end until everybody who wants to be represented is represented.

MADELEINE FUGATE: We intend to have this project keep going until I receive the last square. I mean that could be next year, or it could be the next 10 years. We'd never know.