Sarah Doherty with her flag pins. John Bayles photo.
As Sarah Doherty sat in her Bay Point home on Tuesday, meticulously threading tiny, red, white and blue glass beads onto safety pins, her eyes welled up as she tried to explain why she was again making her American flag pins.
“I can’t even talk about it,” she said. “I get too emotional. I didn’t even know Jordan, but I knew his father Chris.”
In 2001 Sarah began making her small lapel pins as a way to raise money for children of the victims of 9/11. She placed the pins on the counter at BookHampton, where she works, and asked for a donation — any donation. She ended up raising over $2,000 that she gave to various charities, including to the Linda Gronlund Memorial Fund. Gronlund grew up in Sag Harbor and died on Flight 93.
Now the bookstore manager is again spending hours every night making her pins — this time with the donations going to the L/Cpl. Jordan C. Haerter Memorial Fund. Haerter, 19, was a 2006 Pierson graduate who perished in Iraq in April. So far she has raised $440 for Jordan’s memorial fund. The pins are also on display at the Sag Harbor Liquor Store.
“Jordan’s death brought the war home to us here in Sag Harbor,” she said. “It hit home and it took one of our own.”
Sarah creates the pins bead by bead. Each pin is made from one large safety pin and 11 smaller pins. When she’s working, she dumps the beads out on a table and with the point of the smaller pin picks them up, one at a time, to create a pattern of colors.
Six pins of red and white beads, and five pins of alternating blue, white, blue, blue, red and white beads, together make an American flag.
She said seeing all of the flags at half-mast, watching Jordan’s motorcade roll solemnly down Main Street the day before his funeral, all she could feel aside from sadness was motivation to try to help any way she could. She wanted to show her “deepest appreciation for Jordan’s bravery, his country and his fellow Marines.”
Sarah is starting to get calluses on her hands she said; the same thing happened after 9/11. Once the beads are on the pins, she takes a small pair of pliers and presses the pins closed so the beads don’t fall off. Then, with the pliers, she opens up the larger safety pin so she can slide the smaller pins on.
Her sister, Meghan, also helps although she won’t say that. She instead says it’s all Sarah’s doing.
“After 9/11 we really held hands and we held a lot of beads,” said Meghan. “I’m not the beader, she is. I’m just the advertiser.”
Six years ago, Meghan was working in the Wharf Shop and she displayed the pins there as well. She took special orders for her sister. Now Meghan works at the Sag Harbor florist and she said the pins will soon be available there. Meghan has been a friend of the Haerter family for over 20 years.
“Chris is a special man and he raised a special son,” said Meghan. “I remember Chris helping [Jordan] try and start a bagel business out of Bagel Buoy and I remember Jordan being passionate about flying and I just remember Chris being a very good father.”
“It’s been life changing for the community and it should be,” she continued. “It’s made people aware how special life is.”
Sarah and Meghan have a nephew who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan.
“We brought him home twice,” said Sarah. “Once to see his mother when she was in the hospital with colon cancer and again to let him say goodbye before she died. We were fortunate he was able to come home.”
She slides the pins onto the larger pin backwards at first. This way she can check to see if she likes how it looks.
“See here,” she says as she points to two pins where the red beads don’t match up perfectly. “This is no good.”
She takes the pins off the larger pin and rethreads the two that don’t match.
She said she knows she could simply put out a can at the bookstore and accept donations and then send a check to Jordan’s fund. But that’s not the point. Sarah hopes her pins make people feel better and also, that they help people to remember Jordan’s sacrifice as well as the sacrifice that others like him have made for our country.
“Now see. They match up perfectly,” she says as she holds the pin up with the beaded pins dangling down.
She then has to take the beaded pins off again and rethread them on to the larger pin, this time not backwards. She is almost finished. She picks up the pliers once more to close the larger pin, bringing it back to its normal shape. She clicks it closed to make sure it closes properly.
“There, that’s how I do it,” she said, holding the pin up to the light with the red, white and blue glass beads glittering.