San Francisco — The AIDS Memorial Quilt dedicated to 80,000 victims of the disease on Friday left San Francisco with a tearful send-off from the city where the first of its 40,000 panels were stitched together 14 years ago.
The NAMES Project Foundation is moving its AIDS Memorial Quilt to Atlanta, hoping it will have a greater impact in the South, where HIV among blacks is rampant. The 54-ton memorial will be housed in a climate-controlled warehouse.
"By being in Atlanta, we are going to be able to make sure that this quilt is as useful and as powerful and as important to the African American community and its struggle against this terrible disease as it was to us in the Bay Area and in the gay and lesbian communities," said Cleve Jones, who stitched the first panel in 1987 to remember his best friend.
Gert McMullin, who has repaired and sewn thousands of panels dedicated to AIDS victims throughout the world, said the quilt should stay in San Francisco. "It angers me in a lot of ways," she said. "This is where it is loved. It was built here by these people. These people who are now dead."
Others could not bear to watch as a group of activists and politicians folded the final 12-foot-square section and loaded the quilt into a truck that will carry it across the country.