“We’ve been listening to some of the names,” Stokes, 18, a freshman economics major from Arkansas said. “I’ll probably go look at the quilt later this evening.”
Blount, 18, a freshman from Nebraska, said she had never heard of World AIDS Day before seeing the panels hanging from the staircase in the center of the student center and occasionally listening in on the reading of the names.
“I actually don’t know anyone with AIDS,” Blount said.
“Yeah, we were actually talking about that, that we don’t know anyone with AIDS,” Stokes said.
Although Blount said she may very well know someone who has AIDS but hasn’t been told they do.
“It’s interesting,” Stokes said. “It’s practical to put [the panels] in here. It’s definitely good exposure.”
Traditionally, Emory’s Hillel organization planned to lay 1,200 quilts on the campus quad as part of its annual Quilt on the Quad project. However, the huge rainstorm on the day before World AIDS Day prevented the student group from laying the quilt out on the ground and limiting the size and scope of this year’s memorial.
Ben Sperling, 20, a junior psychology major, has been volunteering with Quilt on the Quad since he was a freshman and this year is chair of the committee.
The quilt is a visual aid to show people that AIDS is a problem that requires people to be proactive to help their communities.
“When people look at these panels they do not see just a statistic — it’s a name, a face, a loved one, a family member,” Sperling said.
Reading the names of several of the people memorialized on the panels was Stephanie Gibson, 21, a junior art history and Italian major.
Seeing them, she said, reminds her of how much work needs to be done.
Gibson, who is from Bermuda, volunteered at an orphanage where children whose parents had died from AIDS were living when she was younger and she considers herself a staunch AIDS activist.
“This is one of the biggest causes I’m a part of,” she said.
And while many students were not reading the quilts as closely as she was, Gibson said she hoped some picked up the message that AIDS is real and impacts real people.
“I’m hoping people don’t walk past them and not notice what’s going on,” she said.
For Nicolai Lundy, 23, an Emory grad who now works in the university’s admissions office, reading the names of people who died of AIDS made the disease very real for him.
“Reading name after name can get easy to think it’s endless repetition. But each name represents a life, a family, achievements,” he said.
“For many students here, it’s just noise, static, part of the never-ending array of voices they hear,” he said.
“But for some, who are sitting in here eating lunch, they just start listening to the names and come to the realization that these are real people. At least this provides a moment for them to escape finals and their last classes and think about the bigger picture.”
Top photo: Nicolai Lundy (standing at the podium) reads the name of people who have died of AIDS with panels from the AIDS Quilt spread throughout Emory’s student center. (by Dyana Bagby)