Pedersen had been working with the bereaved in 1998 at Lourdes Hospice in New York. After the attacks on 9/11, Pedersen says, she felt she needed to find a way for the community to express gratitude to the responders — as well as a shared sympathy and horror for what the country endured in the days after the attack.
“This idea came out of that,” Pedersen said. “There was a feeling of wanting to do something. In the space of four hours, 700 people came out and painted a heart for 9/11.”
Pedersen manages most of the business of creating, organizing and sending the hearts to recipients in her Cooperstown home. She begins with a 25-pound block of clay. After using a wire to slice off a slab about a half an inch thick, she sends it through a roller and then smooths the surface of the clay with a squeegee. Using a standard, heart-shaped cookie cutter, she cuts the hearts and moves them to a sunny window. After drying for a day the hearts will be fired.
“And then we have to assemble them into kits,” Pedersen said. “You can see there is a lot for our volunteers to do.”