As I set the table and took photographs on September 11, 2011, I was ever mindful of what had transpired ten years earlier. I'm certain we all remember where we were, how we learned of the tragic events, and how we felt (and still feel) about what took place that day.
Since I'm not good at remembering numbers, I searched online for statistics regarding loss of human life that day. Here's what I found:
"The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 by al-Qaeda resulted in 2,996 immediate (attack time) deaths, including the 19 hijackers and 2,977 victims. 372 foreign nationals (excluding the nineteen perpetrators) perished in the attacks, representing just over 12% of the total. The immediate deaths include 246 victims on the four planes (from which there were no survivors), 2,606 in New York City in the towers and on the ground, and 125 at the Pentagon. About 292 people were killed at street level by burning debris and falling bodies of those who had jumped from the World Trade Center's windows. All the deaths in the attacks were civilians except for 55 military personnel killed at the Pentagon. Some immediate victims were not added to the list until years later."
And the following that reminds us the United States didn't suffer alone:
"More than 90 countries lost citizens in the attacks on the World Trade Center."
As I worked, I reflected on the terrible consequences that have occurred during the intervening years -- the loss of both civilian and military lives, the devastating injuries, the hardships all sides have endured.
I chose to use American tableware. The water glasses are Fostoria's best-known pattern, the ever-popular "American."
I teamed them with a lesser-known companion pattern, "American Lady." "Lady" paired blown-glass bowls with pressed stems that match the "American" cubist pattern.
The flatware is "La Scala" by Gorham. Dinner plates are "Monroe" from the Lenox Presidential Collection.
A few weeks ago, I purchased a stack of gold-rimmed salad plates at an area antiques mall. The plates feature the seal of the United States Department of Defense. A few of them substitute the words, "Secretary of Defense" for "Department of Defense."
They vary slightly, but all were made by U.S. companies: Lenox, Gorham, Pickard, and Castleton.
The ones by Castleton are lighter in color and feature a gold line just inside the gold outer band. The seals are larger on the Lenox and Gorham plates. I think they're all similar enough to use interchangably.
I searched for information on the Pentagon's website about heraldry in the U. S. Military. Here's part of what I found:
An American bald eagle with wings displayed horizontally grasping three crossed arrows and bearing on its breast a shield of thirteen pieces Argent and Gules, a chief Azure. Above the eagle an arc of thirteen stars with alternating rays. Below the eagle is a wreath of laurel to dexter and olive to sinister. On an encircling band the inscription "DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE" at the top and "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" at the bottom.
The American bald eagle, long associated with symbolism representing the United States of American and its military establishment, has been selected as an emblem of strength. The eagle is defending the United States, represented by the shield of thirteen pieces. The thirteen pieces are joined together by the blue chief, representing the Congress. The rays and stars above the eagle signify glory, while the three arrows are collectively symbolic of the three component parts of the Department of Defense. The laurel stands for honors received in combat defending the peace represented by the olive branch.
The seal was originally approved on 8 October 1947 by the President for the National Military Establishment. The designation was changed to Department of Defense on 15 August 1949.
The bread plates, made by the Homer Laughlin company, feature the seal of the Department of the Navy. I purchased them (at a different antiques mall) a couple of years ago, thinking I'd use them someday to set a table with a patriotic theme. Viewed closely, the eagle is holding an anchor. The outer band is a rope design, and the inner one appears to represent a chain.
Unlike the bone china salad plates, these smaller dishes have the look of restaurant ware. Perhaps they were intended for use on ships, rather than in formal dining rooms.
I enjoy collecting vintage glass swans, and I used several on today's table. Most were probably manufactured by the Duncan & Miller Company. The process of creating each of their sleek, stylized swans required 14 craftsman.
In my mind, they're representing ships -- a feathery flotilla, a peaceful armada ...
The little blue one is probably my favorite.
The white feathers are sections of a boa I purchased at Jo-Ann fabrics for this table. I put cotton balls under the feathers to give them additional height.
Colorful blown glass swans, like the one below, are often represented as being Italian (Murano), but several companies in the United States made them as well. I found this one at Goodwill. It held a dusty, faded arrangement of "silk" flowers (which I promptly discarded).
I wedged a piece of dry floral foam in the opening, added feathers, and inserted zebra grass plumes to create a quick, inexpensive centerpiece.
I used several Fostoria "Baroque" candleholders. Their shape makes me think of crashing waves.
A Fostoria "American" mayonnaise bowl and underplate provide additional sparkle.
The napkins and napkin rings (of indeterminate origin) came from a local estate sale.
More "Defense" plates will be used when it's time for dessert and coffee. The cups and saucers are "Gotham" by Theodore Haviland (marked "made in America").
The Theodore Haviland "Concorde" coffee pot is also American, made during the time the company transferred operations from France to the United States before, during, and for several years after World War II.
When using off-white dishes with gold decoration, mixing a variety patterns can work beautifully.
I didn't wait for darkness to fall to begin lighting candles.
The candles are Patrician, made by Candle Artisans of Washington, New Jersey. The color is "quince."
In religion, particularly Christianity, a white feather is often interpreted as a message card from heaven, brought by angels. It is seen as a sign of peace and a message from a departed loved one in heaven, affirming that they are well.
An apocryphal story I found:
In 1775, Quakers in a Friends meeting house in Easton, New York, were faced by a tribe of Indians on the warpath. Rather than flee, the Quakers fell silent and waited. The Indian chief came into the meeting house and, finding no weapons, he declared the Quakers to be friends. On leaving he took a white feather from his quiver and attached it to the door as a sign to leave the building unharmed.
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