BETHEL, Conn. — Bethel resident Karen Mello crocheted a scarf in colors of the French flag shortly after the terrorist attacks at a Paris nightclub, hoping it might comfort a survivor from the frightening November night.
She later learned, however, that her scarf eventually touched and comforted thousands of French residents at a return concert by The Eagles of Death Metal in February.
“I never dreamed it would have the impact that it did,’’ said Mello, who works in Stamford as the director of development and communications for The Center for Sexual Assault Crisis Counseling and Education (helping sexual assault victims in Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Weston, Westport and Wilton) and who volunteers for the Binky Patrol of Southern Connecticut.
Mello started crocheting the so-called "comfort items" after the deadly Sandy Hook shootings in December 2012. She sent her French tricolor scarf to a person in Paris who was collecting handmade items for victims of the terror attack, figuring that would be the last of it. Mello included her address on the envelope in which she mailed the scarf.
Last week, Mello received a letter from a woman who explained how the scarf ended up on the shoulders of Jesse Hughes, frontman for Eagles of Death Metal at a February concert at the Olympia in Paris.
The letter came from Theresa Cede, a Paris resident, who miraculously escaped the Bataclan Theatre in November when a SWAT unit rushed in to confront radical Islamic terrorists who killed 130 people that night in Paris, including 89 in the theater.
Cede received the scarf from a friend and work colleague. She also attended the February concert, wearing the scarf and preparing to hear from the band that was onstage when the terror act began late last fall.
“When the band played the song ‘I Love You All The Time,’ I had the idea to tap a girl in front of me on the shoulder and ask if she could pass it on to the stage,’’ Cede said via email. “It took about a minute and I kept seeing the scarf pop up and it was handed forward and forward and forward -- and finally it made it and someone at the very front threw it on stage.”
Cede said Hughes looked at the scarf for a long time. “He said he wanted to identify the person who made it, give them a big cup of cocoa and a hug after the show,’’ Cede said. “I was jumping up and down with joy, because I just could not believe that it worked.”
Cede said she had debated whether to attend the February concert. She did not decide until a few hours beforehand to attend. “For me, going back was not because I am the biggest fan of the group, it was not because I needed to prove myself anything,’’ she said. “The reason for me -- and this came when I made the decision to go -- was simply because I can. Because I have the freedom to do so, and that should be reason enough. And I also went a little bit for the people who were at the November concert. To pay my respects to all those people who have lost their lives, to those who would be there in the first row, those who would ask us to go for them.”
She felt safe attending the February concert because she knew security would be tight.
“But it's clear that you have a little weird feeling in your stomach, at first because you are doing all these same things that you were doing before the attack happened, going back to a concert hall, the lights, the crowd, the feeling of anticipation,’’ she said.
Cede said she and Simon Poulter, the friend with whom she attended the concert, enjoyed the show. The scarf provided an emotional lift for everyone at the concert. Click here to read Poulter’s account of the February concert.
“It became a symbol for many people that night,’’ she said. “When I saw it arrive on stage, I was over the moon. It brought to me some continuity in life. I wanted to let Karen know -- who I only knew at that point as ‘K’ -- that it arrived and it became something I had to do. I wanted to close the loop.”
Cede says she does not know where Mello’s scarf is now. “I sure hope they kept it,’’ she said of the band.
She is still coping with the emotional scars from the November attack. The support from people all round the world, particularly the compassion shown by Mello, has helped tremendously.
“The story of this scarf is a beautiful way of showing just how a chain of humans can realize something without personal interest, but for the interest of others,’’ Cede said. “And to help comfort and heal. It's something that not everybody thinks of, but those who do will do it without hesitation -- and that's just magic. And it shows that love is stronger than hate in this world. I wanted to absolutely let Karen know how much of an impact that scarf had and tell her its story.”
“I was so happy that Theresa contacted me, using the address from the envelope that the scarf was in, to tell me about all that transpired,'' Mello said. "When I send out one of my crocheted items, my hope is that it provides a little comfort and strength to someone in need. What a gift it was to hear that it touched so many. I have thanked Theresa and told her that she can expect another scarf in the mail from me soon.”