Baha'i News -- Sorrow, Defiance In Memorials Alone And Together, County Residents Remember Sept. 11

Sorrow, Defiance In Memorials Alone And Together, County Residents Remember Sept. 11

The sky was gray. The spirit was red, white and blue.

Several hundred men, women and children endured a soft but annoying drizzle to celebrate America during a 90-minute exercise in patriotism Wednesday evening at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.

The stands were far from full for "Reflections," but the audience responded enthusiastically to the numerous speakers and singers, whether it was the Rev. Brian Flanagan of the Diocese of Palm Beach, recalling the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen, or Fortissimo, a barbershop quartet performing an a cappella version of The Stars and Stripes Forever.

The event was the largest of nearly two dozen observances Wednesday across Palm Beach County of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It was a day of tearful prayer and thoughtful remembrance, tinged with red, white and blue resolve.

Murtaza Kakli, president of the Muslim Community of Palm Beach County, was cheered at the Jupiter stadium when he recalled coming to this country from Pakistan as a young man and staying to become a citizen.

"I am proud to be an American," Kakli said. "I cherish the freedom to choose where you live, where you work and how you worship. Our most valuable exports to the world are democracy and freedom."

But as they stood up for America and sat back down to hear its greatness praised and sung, sheriff's deputies in green camouflage hats walked the stands with assault rifles and bomb-sniffing dogs, a somber reminder that terror a year ago had brought them together again Wednesday.

During an early-afternoon ceremony at Florida Atlantic University, more than 100 students, faculty and community members tied messages with yellow, orange, blue and white ribbon to a newly planted oak tree. Sophomore Jonathan Casanova, 19, bent down to write a message on his strip of paper: "Freedom - so our children never suffer as we have suffered."

"If everyone had the same freedoms as we do in this country, people wouldn't have to do acts like this," Casanova said of the terrorist attacks.

For one day, fear crept back into the friendly skies.

Unease about last year's midair terror thinned the crowds at airports in South Florida, causing Delta Air Lines to cancel nine of its 28 flights at Palm Beach International Airport, or about 14 percent of the airport's schedule. About 20 percent of flights were canceled at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

For those who flew anyway, it was cause to splash themselves in red, white and blue in a collective nose-thumbing at would-be terrorists.

"I was nervous," said Normajean Leavitt, 60, from Port Huron, Mich., wearing a T-shirt with a U.S. flag and the word "Freedom" above it. "But I've flown many times since then."

Dozens gathered in the courtyard of the Palm Beach County Governmental Center in West Palm Beach. The flags were presented and a choral group culled from government offices sang a medley of patriotic tunes.

At 10:28 a.m., exactly a year to the minute that the second trade center tower fell in New York, the people who came to remember filled the courtyard with chimes of 200 silver handbells.

Phillipa Williams remembers fearing for her brother Gordon Williams, who worked at 1 World Trade Center, the north tower. He stumbled out of the tower before it fell and managed to call his mother and sister as they were heading into the chapel at St. Ann Catholic Church in downtown West Palm.

Phillipa Williams said too many people are caught up in the rush of just another workday.

"I thought, do you not realize something profound, life- altering, happened a year ago today?" Williams said. "If you're human, that should affect you,"

Wearing shirts that read "Celebrate Freedom at the Potter's House," the 120-member congregation prayed, danced and sang songs in the Loxahatchee Groves Elementary cafeteria.

Glenn and JoAnn Graves, founders of the inter-denominational church, lost friends in the New York attacks and said they wanted their "concert of prayer" to be about more than just remembering.

"Will we always remember them? Yes," Glenn said. "But more than I remember them, I celebrate them."

Observances in Palm Beach County schools were subdued affairs. Each school played a district-made video that led students in the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by two students singing the national anthem. The 15-minute video ended with patriotic songs and scenes, including American landscapes.

Dressed in black - dress pants, blouse and high heels - Staci Paul dug her hands into the loamy ground and planted some memories at the Lord's Place in Boynton Beach.

A group picture of smiling friends went into a hole under a huge shade tree along with a letter she penned to a friend, Angela Susan Perez, one of five of her friends killed when the World Trade Center collapsed.

She planted five Silver Queen plants for her friends, part of a meditation garden created at the homeless shelter from donated trees, plants, mulch and benches.

Paul spoke with Perez, a Cantor Fitzgerald employee, every morning and Perez became like a big sister, one who could deliver some right-to-the-point New York advice whenever needed.

Paul, who works for LaSalle Broker-Dealer in Boca Raton and dealt daily with Cantor Fitzgerald employees, said the past year has been awful for her.

"I'm a different person. Part of me has been taken away," she said.

About 600 people gathered at Unity of the Palm Beaches to hear Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian and Baha'i leaders pray and give short messages on the lessons learned last year. At the end, everyone held hands for several rounds of "Let There Be Peace on Earth."

Host minister Chris Jackson thanked everyone for laying down their differences for a night to attend this service. "Not one life lost will be in vain if we as a human family can come together as we have here tonight," He told the group before praying: "Help us to recognize that in your eyes, there is no separation, there is no division. We are one."

Staff writers Antigone Barton, Elizabeth Clarke, Thomas R. Collins, Dani Davies, Sonja Isger, Kimberly Miller, Michelle Mundy, Stephen Pounds and Eduardo Vento contributed to this story.

- ron_hayes@pbpost.com

- tim_omeilia@pbpost.com


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