Hope flickers during Carbondale’s 9/11 observance
Aliza Opdyke sat cuddled in her mom’s lap during the peace observance in Carbondale’s Sopris Park Wednesday evening. Aliza held a small American flag in her tiny hand, and both were illuminated by her mom’s flickering candle.”I wanted a place to come to remember 9/11 that wasn’t based in a church,” said Sherri Opdyke, a Glenwood Springs resident. Opdyke, originally from New Jersey, said she didn’t know anyone killed in the World Trade Center attack, “but this has been a sad day for me.”Aliza and Sherri, and hundreds of others throughout Garfield County, attended dozens of services to remember the victims of last September’s terrorist attacks, and to reflect or to pray for peace. Carbondale’s observance was organized by the Roaring Fork Coalition for Peace, and Mountain Folks for Global Justice. Speakers during the cool evening touched on everything from the Golden Rule to America’s involvement in world affairs.Iranian born professor Abdollah Dashti told the crowd that it would not “assuage the world situation” if the United States invades Iraq. “It will only make matters worse,” Dashti said. He also urged people to work to prevent war in the first place, so they won’t have to be anti-war activists later on.The observance was held under low clouds that snuggled up to Mt. Sopris, and a few early sprinkles chased some folks to the park’s picnic pavilion.The crowd as a whole didn’t look a lot different from one of the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities’ concerts, except it was a little smaller, numbering 200 to 300. There were folks of all ages, all head gear, all foot wear. Some sat on blankets or lawn chairs, while others stood around the perimeter that arced out from the stage. The mood was much quieter than at a concert, though. Small talk was subdued during the drum session on the stage, and later on during the speakers.Festooned isn’t the right word to describe the stage, but there were a pair of earth flags, and another blue flag with a dove and words for peace that included salaam, aman, rukun and jam. An American flag hung from a pole on the left side of the stage.Bob Anderson, a Boy Scout leader in Troop 235, placed the flag on the stage with two of his scouts. “We thought it would be appropriate to have the American flag present at this memorial,” Anderson said.Anderson was dressed in a scout uniform with short sleeves and shorts. A few rain drops were still falling when Anderson was asked whether he came prepared. “Not as much as I should be,” he chuckled. “I’m getting a little wet.”Larry White, a volunteer with the Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District, was one of several with the district who attended the observance in their white shirts. “We’re here to represent those who lost their lives,” White said. “And to show our colors.”White thought about that horrific day a year ago and others that would follow for months to come. “How do you bury someone you don’t have to bury,” White asked as he stood listening to Glenwood Springs City Council member Jean Martensen speak from the stage.Moments earlier, Martensen told the gathering her son and daughter-in-law live in New York City, and he had been in a World Trade Center book store only 15 minutes before the first of two airlines were crashed into it. She was in a meeting with city and council officials at the time and got the first news of the attacks when her husband called to say their son was OK.Several other local elected officials gave presentations, including Jacque Whitsitt, Michael Hassig, Russ Criswell and Rick Davis. The public was then invited to the stage to present their own thoughts.Wendy Anderson, an organic gardener and member of Mountain Folks for Global Justice, drew some of the biggest cheers of the night when she read one of her new poems. In introducing the poem, Anderson indicated it was a little more harsh than she intended. A recurring theme in the poem was that 9/11 created a state of emergency in the United States that has spread to the world, and that the United States should consider its own role in creating that emergency.The United States “gutted” the nation of Afghanistan and “created an oil oligarchy,” Anderson said.Neal Chase was next, and he picked up the pace a bit. “The war is being fought over oil and religion,” said the Glenwood Springs resident, who after his presentation said he is a Baha’i. Chase said if there was a “United States of the whole world” and a world police force and an international court of justice, then people who fly airplanes into buildings could be brought to justice.He concluded by saying there will eventually be a “divine economy” with a minimum wage that will solve all the problems. “And that’s going to happen,” Chase said.Scott Burkhalter put a little levity into the evening, and got the biggest laughs, when he dug up an old 1960s saying and changed it just a bit for his family audience. “Bombing for peace is like fornicating for virginity,” Burkhalter told the crowd.By the time Burkhalter left the stage, the last of the day’s light had faded and darkness was settling in. Candles were lit and put on the ground, held in hands, or in one case placed in a Coke cup. Sharon Troyer was lying in the grass at the back of the crowd, shielding her flame against a light breeze.Like many others, Troyer came in from Glenwood Springs for the observance. “I wanted to be part of something to memorialize the event,” said Troyer, who has lived in Glenwood Springs since 1988. “I didn’t know where to be … but thought this would be a good place. It’s nice to hear the speakers and do some thinking.”
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