The nation is approaching an anniversary unlike any other in its history. Sept. 11, 2002, will separate us all by one year from the day everything changed — from the day that, for most of us, forever divided our world into “before” and “after.”
Like all anniversaries of awful events — especially first anniversaries — this one came with no instructions telling us how to mark it. But citizens in Hood River and around the Mid-Columbia have come up with their own ideas. From a community concert to talks by nationally renowned speakers to a memorial fast, local events to commemorate Sept. 11 range from the informative to the reflective.
The Columbia River Fellowship for Peace has organized a week-long series of events called “From Ground Zero to Common Ground,” beginning Tuesday and continuing through Sept. 11. The series is co-sponsored by Hood River County School District Community Education and Gorge Ecumenical Ministries.
The Fellowship has built a reputation over the past year for hosting well-organized and respectful community forums featuring prominent speakers — including last fall’s day of discussion on Afghanistan, February’s civil liberties forum and a debate in June on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
That reputation helped organizer Mark Nykanen entice another panel of well-known authors, professors and activists to Hood River for the event.
Highlights include author and professor David Cortright, president of the Fourth Freedom Forum, a Washington, D.C., think tank that explores nonviolent resolutions to international conflict; and a research fellow at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He has served as a consultant for various agencies of the United Nations and the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict.
Cortright will speak about the repercussions of a war with Iraq. After his appearance in Hood River, he will fly to France, where he is scheduled to address the French National Assembly on Sept. 11 about the same topic.
David Barsamian, founder of Alternative Radio, will speak on the topic, “How the media construct memory and invent history.”
Portland author Diana Abu-Jaber, a respected Arab American writer and activist and author of the critically acclaimed novel, “Arabian Jazz,” will speak about what it’s like to be Arab, American, a woman, and a writer in the United States today.
The keynote speaker for the week is Frances Moore Lappé, whose 1971 bestseller, “Diet for a Small Planet,” awakened a whole generation to the social and personal significance of their food choices. She’s recently released her new book, “Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet.” The topic of her speech on Sept. 11 will be “Food, Hunger, and the Politics of Hope.”
Along with the more prominent figures are a host of lesser known but equally compelling speakers who will foster discussions on subjects ranging from diverse faith traditions to Christian “peacemakers” who go to war zones and literally place their bodies between combatants. A “community day” at the Hood River Marina will feature kids activities and concerts by local bands, and the First Friday art and music walk downtown on Sept. 6 will be dedicated to 9-11 remembrance.
Nearly 40 people so far have signed up for a fast in remembrance of the victims of 9-11. Many will fast for a day, while a few people will participate in extended fasts — including the Rev. David Duncombe of White Salmon, who will fast for 21 days. (See sidebar.) Anyone wishing to participate can sign up at Waucoma Bookstore or by e-mailing coordinator Paul Blackburn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There will be a fast-breaking gathering and pot-luck at Wilson Park at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 11.
Columbia River Fellowship for Peace organizers said that more than 50 people have been involved in planning the myriad events.
“The idea evolved to do (an anniversary event) over a period of days,” Nykanen said. “It provided a nice flexibility — particularly when bringing in speakers of the caliber that we’re bringing in.”
For more information about the week-long series of events, go to: www.ColumbiaRiverPeace. org.