Juneau memorial held for attack victims

Posted: Friday, September 14, 2001

Even people who didn't know where the memorial service was Friday could find it by following the stream of people walking toward Centennial Hall at noon or the cars lining up to circle through the full parking lot.

All three parts of the ballroom were opened up, with 1,000 chairs lined in tight rows, and still there weren't enough seats. People stood five deep along the walls and into the aisles, but the fire marshal in the third row let them keep coming.

"It's the largest gathering of people in Juneau at one time that I've seen," said Jane Ginter. Her husband and son were in the subway underneath the Pentagon when it was hit, but were unhurt. Now she's waiting for them to come home Monday.

In all, nearly 1,800 people gathered for the nondenominational service as part of a national day of remembrance for Tuesday's terrorist attacks.

"We gather today as people who struggle for answers," said the Rev. Greg Lindsay from Northern Light United Church, opening the service. "We are Jew and Christian, Protestant and Catholic, Sikh, Buddhist and Moslem ... Our presence speaks the promise that love is stronger than hate."

The resounding prayers were for peace and healing, for an end to violence, for courage and justice.

"There's a powerful sense of community in this room today and I believe that can give us all healing," Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer said as she looked over the crowd, many people wearing red, white or blue.

Then, at 12:30, Ulmer asked for a moment of silence, and even the children were quiet. Babies crying a moment before were muffled and the low whir of the ventilation could be heard, as in an empty room.

The silence melted into singing "God Bless America" and some people held up small flags. Baskets passed to collect donations for relief efforts and rebuilding in New York City and Washington, D.C., filled quickly with bills and coins.

Afterward Heather Bunnell said she hopes the events of this past week revive American patriotism.

"I feel like it's once again we're uniting as a country back to in God we trust' and unfortunately it takes something like this to do this," Bunnell said, crying as she spoke. "My children, they're going to know God and they're going to love their neighbors and that means other countries too."

Her husband picked up the train of thought.

"For so many years and so many generations this country has had the luxury of peace on our homefront," Barry Bunnell said. "Few understand the blood that's been shed and lives that have been lost to secure that freedom. For so much of America this has been an eye-opener to what so much of the rest of the world lives with every day."

In the foyer, people drew mountains, eagles and other pictures of hope on an oversized easel Paul Wislotski had set up. He plans to send the drawings to the people of New York and Washington, D.C.

"America needs a way to grieve, and one way to grieve is through art," said Wislotski, who calls himself a missionary of art. He will have the easels up at Marine Park from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Kristan Hutchison can be reached at khutchison@juneauempire.com.

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