Hundreds gather to grieve and remember

Published on Thu, Sep 20, 2001 by Jack Kintner

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Hundreds gather to grieve and remember

By Jack Kintner

“These dark events moved us in ways that left us not knowing how to express ourselves,” said John Kageorge of White Rock. “It seemed logical to go to the arch, one of our favorite meditation spots, to settle our thoughts.”

Kageorge, his wife Kiran and their infant daughter Jasmine arrived to find over 400 Canadians and Americans gathered for last Saturday evening’s peace vigil and candle Lighting Ceremony, and he quickly volunteered to help light the hundreds of candles placed around the base of the arch. “It was quite moving,” Kageorge continued, “especially at the end when we all sang ‘God Bless America.’”

The event was sponsored by the United States/Canada Peace Anniversary Association. “This arch is our Statue of Liberty,” said the association’s president, Christina Alexander, who began the ceremony with a song she’d composed, “Standing Tall.” Judy Edwards of Blaine’s United Church of Christ, followed with a long, meditative prayer that seemed to perfectly express the mood of people standing and sitting quietly around the foot of the arch in the gathering dusk. “We mourn the loss of peacefulness and love in our hearts,” Edwards said. “We need your help in turning toward each other.”

Politicians from both sides of the border took turns making brief statements, including MP for Delta and South Surrey Val Meredith who described those gathered from both countries as a part of the same family. White Rock mayor Hardy Staub, himself a commercial pilot, described his own experiences flying into strife-torn parts of the world and asked the crowd to “never forget” these events.

Blaine was represented by mayor Dieter Schugt and city manager Gary Tomsic, who made an analogy between the questions we all get asked at the border and the questions both countries ought to be asking themselves now, as these events unfold. “Both our countries are crossing a border into unknown territory,” Tomsic said, “so where did we come from?

Where are we going? What’s our purpose? What of value do we have with us, and what will we bring back?” Tomsic gestured at the legend on the top of the arch and continued, “We’re all children of a common mother, as it says, all of humanity.”

Several people then took turns reading brief peace quotes from sources as varied as the Bible, George Washington and Shakespeare. Alexander then instructed people to light their candles from the 300 surrounding the base of the arch as Larry Kozian played guitar gently in the background. She also reminded people to sign their name and add a comment to a large sheet that had been spread out underneath the arch.

Most of the candles, each in its own metal container, were donated by Bessie Barredo and her daughter, Adrianne Hanson, of Mail Boxes Plus. “We wanted to do something for this country and show our support,” she said. Barredo immigrated from the Philippines five years ago and is in the process of obtaining U.S. citizenship. The metal containers will allow the candles to remain in place indefinitely and be refreshed as more are added to them.

Harjinder Singh, 39, and his family who run “Dollar and Less” in the Blaine Shopping Center donated 40 butane lighters and additional candles for those who didn’t have them to hold. “We were happy to help, and we really enjoyed the service,” he said. The Singh family came from India and has been here a little less than two years.

John Choulochas later described at length how he and Alexander first spoke with them about the peace vigil.

“They’re a Sikh family,” he said, “and at first seemed to be distant and guarded, unsure about what was going on. But then Christina mentioned to Singh’s wife that her son goes to Blaine high school with their son, and before you know it they were hugging and crying like long lost sisters.”

The gathering closed as Alexander led the growing group of people in “God Bless America,” and afterward people went forward to the base of the arch to leave their own candles and share quietly.

People were reluctant to leave, but the gathering was finally dismissed by Choulochas, who said gently, “The park closes at dark, so move along, people. But remember, what began at this ceremony should be carried home, shared and not forgotten.”.
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