Let freedom ring: community remembers 9-11
September 13, 2002
By KATE WILLIAMSON
NARRAGANSETT - Call them two sides of the same coin. A pair of complementary observances took place Wednesday morning in Narragansett in remembrance of Sept. 11, 2001. While on the surface as different as two memorials can be, many people attended both and found both satisfied the need to reflect upon and move past the tragedies that befell America last year.
The first, "Igniting the Peace Within on 9/11," brought a huge crowd to the Dance of Peace sculpture in front of Town Beach at 8:30 a.m.
Presided over by interfaith minister Rev. Joya Peterson, the service featured American Indian, Bahai, Buddhist, Islamic, Jewish and other prayers, children singing and the ringing of a Tibetan meditation chime bowl.
The second, which began at 9:45 in front of the Narragansett Public Safety building, featured a formal march by police and firefighters, a color guard, prayers by Catholic and Episcopal priests and the music of drums and bagpipes.
"This day is a sacred day for people everywhere," said Peterson at "Igniting the Spirit of Peace Within on 9/11."
The theme of the observance was allowing peace into the hearts of individuals.
"We can create our life of love and gentleness and compassion," said Peterson. "What we focus on, we do create. We have everything we need. We are never separate from God; we are never separate from our source. We are full of the potential to create a peaceful world."
Seraina McCarty sang "A World Without War," a song she composed as a reaction to the attacks of Sept. 11. Later in the observance, fourth graders from Narragansett Elementary School, led by music teacher Debbie Crary, sang "All We Need Is Love."
The fourth graders were not the only students present at the event. Pier School students came with their art teacher, Laurel Montella, to display artwork that they created after meditating on the concept of peace.
"Students have been reflecting on what peace sounds like, what it smells like," said Montella.
For some students, peace looked like doves, suns, flags, butterflies, incense sticks with rainbow curling smoke and windmills surrounded by music. For seventh grader Brian Wilson, peace looks and sounds like a waterfall.
"Rushing water and the sound of it hitting rocks I find very soothing," said Wilson, showing off the patriotic red and blue rubber bands on his braces as he spoke.
In between the singing and the prayers, local resident Joanne Friday rang a small Tibetan bell during moments of silence. The ringing itself is a prayer, said Friday.
"Listen, listen, the sound of the bell brings me back to my true home," she said.
Mimi Sammis, the sculptor who created the Dance of Peace sculpture, spoke about her daily recital of the St. Francis prayer. The prayer asks God to make the supplicant an instrument of peace, healing and changing what is wrong in the world.
"When I say I want to be an instrument of peace and any of you say 'make me an instrument of peace,' a light comes into all of us," said Sammis.
Sammis words, and the whole observance, touched the audience.
"I'm speechless," said Alemattu Bility, a Jamestown resident who left Africa after her family was killed in war. "I'm sitting here trying to absorb everything that's going on. Coming from a country of war, this is another day that reminds me how fragile life is, for so many people to lose their lives in a day and a half."
"It let everyone reflect that no one is different, we're all the same people," said Wilson.
"It was wonderful. It was nice to see the elementary school and the middle school working together at such short notice," said Beverley Berstein, whose daughter Alison, 8, was one of the elementary school singers.
Berstein was also present at the firefighter and police memorial.
"I'd like to thank you for helping us to commemorate the events of one year ago that brought us all together," said Fire Captain Robert Lloyd, opening the memorial. "Everyone will always remember where we were and who we were with, calling friends and loved ones."
During the ceremony, the police and firefighters, led by the firefighters color guard, marched in formation from the Public Safety building to the Firefighter's Memorial on Kingstown Road. At each location, they laid down a wreath in honor of the victims and those rescuers who died in service. The first wreath honored those who died in the World Trade Center South Tower and in Flight 93; the second honored those who died at the North Tower and the Pentagon.
Fire department Lt. Donald Dragon, who served at Ground Zero of the World Trade Center attacks, rang the fire bell in four sets of five at each location. The ringing of four sets of five dates back to the time when firefighters used their bells to communicate over distance. That particular arrangement indicates a firefighter has died in the line of duty.
Two other firefighters, privates Jason Prete and Joseph Volpe, also served at the World Trade Center.
Father John Watterson of St. Mary Star of the Sea and Rev. Russell Ruffino of St. Peter's by the Sea Episcopal Church led people in prayer at the two locations.
"Where was God on Sept. 11?" said Ruffino, echoing the question of many.
He decried those who say that the attacks were part of His mysterious plan, calling that idea "ridiculous" and perhaps "blasphemous."
"God's will and God's plan for us cannot be suffering and death," he said. "I think we need to understand that our God is a with-us God. He is not Mr. Fix-it Big Daddy in the sky."
Ruffino called on people to understand that they are God's partners in bringing about a better world, and prayed for both America's enemies and America's leaders.
The fire department's color guard wore red berets and carried flags and brass axes. The guard dates back to 1999, when the department felt the need to send a formal contingent of firefighters to honor the death of six Worcester firefighters, according to Lloyd.
Disasters like Sept. 11, he added, are amazing in how much they touch people's lives.
"You don't realize what a small country it is until a tragedy occurs," he said. "We tried to show respect for everyone who gave their life that day."