After days of anguish, the Lafayette community found some peace on Saturday afternoon as hundreds of people poured their grief into creating prayer flags at the Acadiana Center for the Arts.
The small flags that members of the community created throughout the afternoon had adornments ranging from felt flowers to feathers to words of encouragement. Each flag had a different theme to suit the person who created it, but many carried a similar sentiment: Lafayette will overcome.
The flags were a colorful array of shapes and messages that were draped across clotheslines. They added an uplifting sight to a room full of people still in mourning.
Bree Sargent, the education director at the Center for the Arts, said nobody has known what to do since a gunman opened fire in a Lafayette movie theater Thursday night and killed two women and injured nine others. She said art therapy was a way to bring Lafayette together and give people a purpose.
Volunteers trickled in to help create the flags. People from around the community and even from other cities donated fabric and supplies.
After reading about the project, Paula Fontenot volunteered to help sew the flags across the top so they could be strung on clotheslines.
Like many locals, Fontenot did not directly know the shooting’s victims, but knew people who knew them and felt connected to them.
“It’s a big town, but it’s a small world,” she said as she crouched over a sewing machine with people decorating flags behind her. “Everybody is just a few heartbeats away from these victims.”
Jamie Huffman and her 14-year-old daughter Maya McGinnis drove in from St. Mary Parish to decorate prayer flags. Huffman said she lived in Lafayette for years, and wanted to be part of the healing.
She pinched a white scrap of fabric to create a dove, and she added it to a purple backdrop where she had already designed a sun. Huffman wanted it to symbolize the victims flying up to heaven.
The flags will eventually become either one giant quilt or two smaller ones. The oversized quilt could go on public display, or the two quilts could go to the families of Mayci Breaux and Jillian Johnson, who were killed in the shooting.
Until then, people still have the opportunity to create and add their own prayer flags. The Acadiana Center for the Arts will host another opportunity for people to create flags during the midweek farmers market at the Horse Farm.
The flags will also be available for people to make at the Acadiana Center for the Arts, Maven in River Ranch and Genterie Supply Co. downtown.