Page One

Mourners gather at vigil

By John Geluardi and Hank Sims Daily Planet staff
Wednesday September 12, 2001

The Berkeley community came together at churches, Civic Center Park and Sproul Plaza to express grief and gain strength in the face of Tuesday’s brutal attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. 

About 300 people gathered at the Peace Wall steps in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park for a multi-faith prayer vigil, which organizers said would begin the healing process in the aftermath of a series of devastating terrorist attacks. 

Those who attended the early evening vigil, many clutching candles, joined hands in prayer and sang spiritual songs. Several city officials, including Mayor Shirley Dean, City Manager Weldon Rucker and councilmembers Linda Maio, Polly Armstrong and Kriss Worthington were present at the event.  

The vigil was led by 20 religious leaders from the Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Buddhist faiths. Prior to the vigil, Pastor Kim Smith of the Trinity United Methodist Church, said the show of solidarity among the faiths was important to bring the community together in a time of spiritual and emotional suffering. 

“The full faith community has much in common and what we have in common is that we pray for peace,” said Smith, who was an organizer of the event. “We believe prayer is action and we’re going to take action here tonight.” 

Many of those in attendance said they were left feeling confused by the attacks and came looking for understanding and support. 

“I felt so helpless at home and wanted to be with other people, to have a community to share this tragedy with,” said Nadja Lazansky, who attended the vigil with her 9-year-old daughter Rachel. “It was very uplifting and personally I feel better.” 

Prior to the vigil, religious leaders offered a special welcome to Iftekhara A. Hai, director of the United Muslims of America. They said his presence was especially significant because of media speculation that the perpetrators of the attack were members of a radical Muslim group.  

Hai, who denounced the attacks as a crime against humanity, said one reason he came to the vigil was to reach out to the larger community because he is concerned that Muslim Americans, who he said are horrified by the attacks, may feel isolated. 

“I as a Muslim American am with you,” Hai said. “Even if it is my Muslim brothers who are responsible.”  

Pastor Marvis Peoples of the Liberty Hill Baptist Church said it is critical for all religious faiths to join in praying for the nation. Peoples said he is concerned about how the United States will respond to the attacks.  

“There will be turbulent days ahead and whatever action is taken it has to be with humanity,” he said. “You can’t fight evil with evil.” 

The Rabbi Ferenc Raj, of Congregation Beth El, said a multi-faith demonstration of peace is critical after a tragedy of such a large scope. “Our prayers are stronger than the bombs and stronger than any terrorist attack,” he said. “We are indeed united and this is the most important thing.”  


As the Civic Center vigil came to a close, over at Sproul Hall more than 2,000 UC Berkeley students and members of the community gathered for an 8 p.m. candlelight vigil in Sproul Plaza. A series of speakers at the open-mic event mourned the victims, cautioned against the urge to retaliate and asked Americans to consider their own government’s responsibility for the tragedy. 

Mostly, though, they simply and movingly expressed their grief.  

“It says something about us that we can come together and mourn, despite our differences, together as the campus community,” said Wally Adameyo, president of the Associated Students of the University of California. 

Counselors were placed throughout the crowd to speak with people who felt overwhelmed by events. The crowd was told that volunteers with green armbands were there to keep the peace, and to try and mediate any disputes between people that might erupt from the vigil. In the end, there was no need.  

“We’re just trying to provide a forum for people to speak, peacefully,” said Hanna Song, a representative of student government, which had sponsored the vigil. Speakers were told that “profanity, personal attacks and racist remarks would not be allowed.” 

Adayemo was one of the first to speak.  

“This is probably the worst event of our generation, and how we respond to it will define how we are looked at in the future,” said Adameyo. 

“It says something about our generation that we would rather mourn than be violent; we would rather have peace than war.”  

Robert M. Berdahl, chancellor of the UC, read the first stanza of the “Second Coming,” a poem by William Butler Yeats: 

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere  

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;  

The best lack all conviction, while the worst  

Are full of passionate intensity.  

He then read from messages left by mourners on Sproul Plaza Tuesday, and concluded that “Yeats was wrong. The best do not lack conviction, and they are full of passionate intensity.” 

“Let us light these candles tonight with resolve that we will illuminate the ignorance with intelligence, hatred with love. Fiat lux.” 

Other speakers received loud cheers when they denounced the U.S. government for creating an atmosphere of violence in the world. 

“The little terrorists are sick people, and they take their cues from the big terrorists – like the ones that live in the White House,” said a student. 

A man on vacation from New York City said that he had spent the day in shock, but despite his horror he felt he had to put the attack into perspective. 

“Sometimes you forget that this happens every day in other parts of the world,” he said. “It’s what the U.S. government calls ‘state-sponsored terrorism. Well, the chickens have come home to roost.” 

“We need to look around here, where the problem originated.”  

“There was nothing accomplished by the violence today, and there will be nothing accomplished by the state-sponsored violence that is being urged on us.” 

A member of the Students for Justice in Palestine read a statement prepared by the organization today. The SJP, it said, condemned the attacks and stood in solidarity with the victims of violence in New York, Washington, Pennsylvania and Kabul. It also said that “no student of Arab or Middle Eastern dissent should be subjected to harassment because of this.” The SJP member said that she knew that two students wearing head scarves were verbally assaulted on Sproul Plaza Tuesday, and that other students had received “racist and threatening phonecalls.” 

A man who identified himself by saying that he worked in Sproul Hall and was “almost as old as your parents” delivered an apology to the students on behalf of people his age. 

“I’m sorry that my generation gave yours such a violent world,” he said. “You deserve better. Hopefully you’ll be able to do better.”