Sen. Patrick J. Toomey signs the America 4 Boston Prayer Canvas as Wagner, right, looks on outside the Mansfield Room in the Capitol on Wednesday.
Although Kari Wagner left her native Meade County, Ky., long ago, the Florida mom still has a strong ally in Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
On Wednesday, the Kentucky Republican hosted Wagner on Capitol Hill and invited his colleagues to add their signatures to a piece of the massive quilt she designed as part of an art project to honor the victims and survivors of last year’s Boston Marathon bombings.
“It started as a small project last May,” said Wagner, of the massive grid of 6-foot-by-18-foot canvases that evolved over the course of a few months into nearly 19,000 square feet of drawings, signatures and messages of healing and support.
The America 4 Boston Prayer Canvas project started by seven Naples, Fla., mothers was envisioned as a symbol of compassion, resilience and unity in the wake of the April 15, 2013, tragedy. For those who witnessed the explosions near the finish line of Boston’s annual race, the quilt has become “an important part of their healing,” Wagner said.
More than 50,000 people from all over the nation, and the world, have added messages of support.
McConnell arranged to have a canvas on display outside the Mansfield Room on Wednesday. Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, kept another canvas, decorated with a drawing of the Capitol, in his office.
“Peace be with you!” Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., wrote neatly below her bold, red signature.
Rep. Joe L. Barton, R-Texas, printed “Texas is with you — Bless you all” in black marker.
The Senate canvas, which bears the congressional seal, has been autographed by Republican Sens. Dean Heller of Nevada and Thad Cochran of Mississippi and dozens of others.
On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., invited members of his caucus to add their names and messages of support. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., did the same.
The halls of Congress are among the final stops on the project’s 50-state tour. On the one-year anniversary of the bombings, the massive, red, white and blue grid will be displayed on the Boston Common, and the public will be invited to sign the canvases. A few days later, on April 20, the project will officially be presented to the City of Boston at Fenway Park with the Boston Red Sox.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.