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AIDS quilt unfurled in Washington to commemorate victims

October 11, 1996
Web posted at: 3:50 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The AIDS Memorial Quilt was unfurled Friday for the first time in four years, stretching for nearly a mile along the National Mall in Washington.

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More than 2 million people were expected to crowd into the nation's capital over the weekend to catch a glimpse of the symbolic blanket. The quilt is made up of 38,000 panels, each commemorating at least one person who has died from the disease.


In a ceremony Friday, Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, read aloud a few of the names on the quilt, as did renowned poet Maya Angelou. The readings will be carried on throughout the weekend by others.

"By reading the names of our family members, friend and lovers who have died from AIDS, Vice President and Mrs. Gore send the message that the AIDS crisis is the heartache and the problem of every American," said Anthony Turney, director of the Names Project Foundation, a quilt sponsor.

The quilt first debuted in 1987 and has been shown in 2,000 U.S. cities. But it has grown so large it now has to be stored in a warehouse, moved by 10 train cars and unfolded by 1,000 people. It was last displayed in 1992.


This weekend, the quilt will stretch from the Washington Monument to the foot of Capitol Hill.

AIDS is the number one killer of American men aged 24 to 44, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC recently estimated that more than 320,000 people have died from AIDS since the disease first surfaced.


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