Ont. woman spearheads mission to comfort 9/11 victims and families

When the twin towers in New York City came under attack 20 years ago, a local group of sewers decided to help the only way they could think, by offering comfort in the form of handmade quilts.

"Who wouldn't want to be wrapped in something someone made for them?" Yvonne Hamelin spearheaded the idea to create the 'Hug Quilt' project just days after 9/11.

Hamelin said the project quickly took on a life of its own, with an overwhelming outpouring of support from the community.

Hamelin sold 12-inch squares of fabric for $5 to anyone who wanted to partake.

"I know that over 800 people participated in some way, coming from Georgetown, Newmarket, Midland, Penetang, Barrie, Orillia and surrounding areas," she said.

Those who purchased the fabric squares then embellished them and gave them back to be made into the quilts destined for New York.

Hamelin said each fabric square sewn into a quilt carried with it a story, from pieces of wedding dresses to local firefighter's uniforms.

"I wish I had documented each story," she said.

After completing 67 quilts, she and her husband, Brent, headed to New York. "We just went to fire halls. We went to schools," Hamelin recalled.

"After leaving one police station, we were chased down the street by an officer stating, 'Please, can I have one?' His brother was a fallen firefighter."

Yvonne Hamelin hugs Brian Heffernan, an NYPD officer whose firefighter brother John Heffernan was killed on 9/11 in New York City, October 2001 (Supplied)

Hamelin said the smell of smoke and soot in the air close to ground zero "still lingers in my memory."

All money raised from the squares was donated to support families in need in New York.

"I am grateful to my community for embracing this," Hamelin finished.

With files from CTV's Siobhan Morris