COLUMBIA — As the world marked the eighth year since the tragedy of Sept. 11, Steve Jacobs spoke to and for mid-Missouri's peace activists in calling attention to the tragedy of suffering not only in America, but around the world.
"There are so many people around the world who had 911s, but their 911s happened on different days," Jacobs said.
Jacobs was one of the featured speakers at "No More Victims," a Columbia Peace Coalition-sponsored gathering Friday night in memory of those killed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and in violence around the world, including the wars since then in Iraq and Afghanistan.
About 45 people attended the event, held this year in Firestone Baars Chapel on the campus of Stephens College. The crowd listened to speakers, music by Carolyn Mathews and the folk music group Caravan, and an original poem read by Tina Parke-Sutherland, a professor in Stephens' English/Creative Writing department, which co-sponsored the event with the Columbia Peace Coalition.
At the end of the evening, attendees streamed out to the Stephens pedestrian bridge over Broadway, holding lit candles and banners with messages of peace, while Mathews accompanied the procession with singing and strumming on her guitar.
Mark Haim, of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, said the gathering has taken place every year since 2001, when peace activists met in Columbia's Peace Park on the evening after the attacks.
"Our message then was essentially, 'Condemn the tragedy, don't compound it,'" Haim said.
Since then, the Columbia Peace Coalition has held the event each year, in different locations, with the same message.
"We are mourning those who died eight years ago and those who have died since then in the wars that horrible set of crimes has been used to justify," Haim said.
The evening's three speakers touched on various aspects of that peace message, calling on attendees to act for peace.
Imam Abdullah Smith of the Islamic Center of Central Missouri spoke in support of diversity and unity. Physician David Mehr addressed the evening's theme of ending victimization, tying Sept. 11 to overseas violence, capital punishment and even the latest hot-button moral issue, health care reform.
"There are many victims. It's time we do something about this," Mehr said in his remarks.
Jacobs, a member of the St. Francis Catholic Worker Community, spoke of the timing of Sept. 11 during the year he served in a minimum-security federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., after repeatedly protesting at what was then the U.S. Army's School of the Americas training facility in Georgia. Condemning U.S. military violence around the world throughout history, he exhorted attendees to take strong action.
"It's kind of a mixed feeling that I have" about events like Friday's, Jacobs said during the candlelight procession. "There's a sense of futility I have about the forces that are arrayed against peace ... Americans are so distracted with their own lives and activities. I always see the same people. They're great people, and they're working for peace, but they should be occupying themselves with sitting in our congressmen's offices."
The event, particularly the candlelight vigil, seemed to make a statement to passersby about the attendees' desire for an end to violence. Passing drivers honked their horns at the signs that attendees held over the pedestrian bridge and at the four corners of the intersection of Broadway and College Avenue.
Jeff Stack of the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation sees the anniversary of Sept. 11, a tragic day in America's history, as a chance to remember global tragedies and call for global peace.
"This is a day that Americans remember as a day of loss, but we should also take the opportunity to empathize with those who have experienced loss the world over," Stack said. "We should take this occasion to stand for peace and for making sure all human needs are met."