Palo Alto peace walk marks Sept. 11 anniversary

Community members march for peace and unity

At 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 11, the parking lot of Congregation Etz Chayim in Palo Alto was completely full, and people formed what was possibly the most polite queue in the city to make name tags and take a seat for the opening ceremony of the Multifaith Peace Walk -- an event marking the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

By 2 p.m., with all seats and standing room inside full, the crowd overflowed into the synagogue's hallway and entryway. But people appeared happy -- happy to stand, to make room in the crowd, to smile at strangers.

A long table in the back of the room was laden with snacks -- preparation for the 2.5 mile walk ahead -- and large circular fans with words like "Peace" and "Salaam" were distributed. At a balloon stand in the courtyard, Temeca Simpson -- in between filling blue and white balloons for children -- expressed what this event meant to her.

"I feel like there's a huge need for relationship-building. The community is aching for peace. These kinds of relationships open doors for larger conversations and create a space for empathy," Simpson said.

Sharon Reives, a retired Navy chaplain, spoke about the significance of the event from a military perspective.

"Being in the military, my heart is with those fighting in the longest war. My heart is with the ones still serving to bring everyone home safely," Reives said.

A man in the audience, Kamal Rasheed, said that the event was an "opportunity to engage other faith communities," adding that it was a "good time to meet new people in order to understand other."

For others, the event served as a time to reflect on Sept. 11.

"I happened to be in Sweden when it occurred," Gunnar Sevelius recalled.

"I saw it on TV and first we didn't think it was possible -- the immense damage that was brought to people that were just doing their daily job -- totally neutral," Sevelius said, the recollection bringing tears to his eyes.

In the background, women led songs on acoustic guitars -- songs with words like haven shalom aleichem, peace unto you.

During the opening ceremony, leaders from different local faith communities spoke to the idea of claiming one's own traditions, honoring what stirs one's soul and listening to what stirs another's soul.

Chaim Koritzinsky, Rabbi of Etz Chayim, emphasized the idea that we are all one in spite of all of our diversity and in spite of our differences.

Danielle Parish, pastor of Spark Church, talked about the Christian value of love and the need to elevate the reputation of God in the community along with the values of reconciliation and restoration.

Parish invited Palo Alto Police Chief Dennis Burns to the stage where he received a blue and white bracelet symbolizing peace and the idea that everyone is bound together.

Kristi Iverson from the Unitarian Universalist Church closed the ceremony saying that the afternoon would be a time for people to lay down the concerns that separate them and walk as one community.

On her way to the first stop, Barbara Marcum, a resident of Palo Alto, remembered the "sheer horror" and "disbelief" of 9/11.

"It's important for younger people to see this (event) so it's not just lost to memory," Marcum said.

She walked alongside Inez Powell, also a Palo Alto resident, who heard of the event through her church.

"We met six blocks ago," Marcum remarked.

"I hope this will bring awareness to a lot of people: Even though we are all different, we have a lot in common -- despite religious beliefs and nationalities," Powell said.

Stations along the way served water and one provided musical respite in the form of sacred harp singing.

For some, the walk was encouraging -- a symbol of unity amidst a heated political climate.

For Farukh Basrai, who has been involved for many years with Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice, which sponsored the walk, said that there could not be a better occasion to show solidarity.

"I'm walking next to a Jew, I've been speaking to a rabbi, I've met people from the Christian community and I'm a Muslim, and I hope that they will see me for a human, just as I see them," he said.

Basrai recalled that the day of Sept. 11, he and his family were driving down the Oregon and California coast after a beautiful family road trip. He woke up to the horrific news and remembers his wife saying, ‘We just saw heaven yesterday, and we saw hell today.'

"But what also strikes me is that we live in Mountain View, in a community that's largely white, and the number of neighbors who came to check on us," Basrai said, pausing as his voice broke, "still brings tears to my eyes -- it is amazing, how that is the first thing they did: ‘Hey, are you guys okay?' Because, it was not a good day to be a Muslim."

The first stop was the University AME Zion Church on Middlefield Road, where Reverend Kaloma A. Smith started by saying, "Palo Alto, I am so proud of you. You are blowing me away!"

The crowd got up, clapped and sang "Victory Is Mine," "Amazing Grace" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic." The mood was celebratory and the music spilled into the courtyard where some children played, while others climbed a nearby tree and one child had the best view, atop someone's shoulders.

Brenda Johnson, a member of the AME congregation, noted the positive atmosphere: "Right after 9/11, there was a lot of unity in the country, and that's what we need to address again. We need to come together again."

As she looked around the courtyard, she added, "This is beautiful."

As the walk proceeded to the next stop along Middlefield Road, cars honked their approval and people stuck their hands out of windows, waving and cheering the procession on.

JianHu Shifu, abbot of the Zen Center of Sunnyvale, spoke of the Buddhist principle of not fighting violence with violence, but rather fighting violence with understanding and compassion.

"It's very important that different religions along with the government come together to look at strategies for peace," he said.

After stopping at Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, the walk continued to Mitchell Park for the closing remarks and a peace picnic hosted by American Muslim Voice.

People gathered around the amphitheater-like dome, eventually linking hands in two large circles as a show of unity before the symbolic release of white doves.

Reverend D. Andrew Kille said that though this was not the first multifaith peace event in commemoration of Sept. 11, this was the first time they organized a march. He estimated the turnout to be somewhere in the hundreds and spoke of the importance of holding this event in a very visible way.

"People have a desire for peace, though this desire is often hidden," he said.

When asked about the significance of this event today, in 2016, he said, "During this time of the elections when rhetoric has gotten so vicious, it's important for people to come together to say 'This is the America we want, where people live together and appreciate one another.'"

The peace picnic drew about 600 people who shared in a meal of international cuisines, according to American Muslim Voice founder Samina Sundas.


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8 people like this
Posted by Bill Hilton
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 12, 2016 at 10:43 am

The summary of the walk is great. I wish it had included the ceremony and picnic in Mitchell Park created by American Muslim Voice: singing, release of peace doves and great food.

51 people like this
Posted by They can't, they won't and they don't stop
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2016 at 11:35 am

They can't, they won't and they don't stop is a registered user.

Americans do want peace and it is great to see everyone unite against a common enemy.

By their own account, Radical Islamists seek to establish a religious caliphate around the world. First, they intend to eliminate all moderate muslim opposition. Next they want to destroy Israel and extend their control to the previous historical boundaries of the Ottoman Empire. From that center of mass, they will then expand their control into other muslim countries around the globe and start destabilizing other cultures.

Even a superficial scan of the news shows all of this strategy is already in full progress.

They hate us because we oppose them and give others the means to resist them. Most of all, however, they hate us because we are infidels and have a diverse culture that conflicts with their religious values. It is nothing new, they have been waging a war against us for over 45 years since the late 1960s through terrorism and armed conflict.

They refined their tactics of kidnappings, assassinations, murders, hijackings and bombings with the PLO, Heszbollah, Hamas and Al Queada. More recently, ISIS has risen to a pinnacle of daily sadistic beheadings, burnings, drownings and crucifixions. All told, Islamic Terrorism is responsible for genocide across the Middle East and Africa representing hundreds of thousands of innocent victims.

It is disappointing to see the emphasis of this article and walk has been focused on political correctness and islamophobia in the United Staes. Try having a multi-cultural peace walk in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Libya, Turkey or any Islamic governed country. Islamic fundamentalists that teach true hatred and intolerance against women, gays and other religions are the real problem.

The "world trade" center was chosen (Not once but twice in 1993 and 2001) for a reason. Islamic fundamentalists want to destroy all of us and on 9/11 they murdered 3,000 people from 61 different countries and almost every religion. The people incinerated and crushed in the attack or who had to jump to their death from 100 stories suffered far worse discrimination.

Islamic terrorists won't stop until they are destroyed and defeated. Let's remember and recommit ourselves to that objective on this very sad anniversary.

1 person likes this
Posted by longtime resident
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2016 at 11:41 am

Was this march announced to the public beforehand? Maybe more people would have wanted to participate but they didn't know about it?

47 people like this
Posted by Egotists of Terror
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2016 at 12:23 pm

Egotists of Terror is a registered user.

@they can't they don't and they won't stop:
BRAVO! Well said-- you summed it up well.

The entire situation is actually complicated by the fact that " peaceful" Muslims are often in denial about the malefactions of their evil brethren, and feel no compulsion to stop them from ruining Islam for non-violent Muslims.

[Portion removed.]

39 people like this
Posted by Sean
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 12, 2016 at 12:46 pm

Let me speak honestly. I don't trust so-called 'moderate' Muslims to oppose their fundamentalist brethren. If they do, most of them have been very quiet about it, although there are some exceptions. If these moderate Muslims would make a very public and organized statement (possibly involving a public march) opposing sharia law, under any circumstances, in this country I would begin to open up to them.

12 people like this
Posted by Bill Hilton
a resident of another community
on Sep 12, 2016 at 2:04 pm

My perception of the walk was unity against war and violence, not against an "enemy" in the usual sense of that word. My perception of the walk is that it was good to join with Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and people of other and non religious traditions to become acquainted with all as human beings desirous of peace rather than vilify groups while hiding behind a pseudonym online. Walking helped moderate fears in my heart/mind. Although I was not an organizer of the walk, I did see/hear notifications of the walk in several congregations and elsewhere online.

44 people like this
Posted by They can't, they won't and they don't stop
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2016 at 3:13 pm

They can't, they won't and they don't stop is a registered user.

War and violence are committed by people. Not butterflies or unicorns or abstract concepts. Thus, by definition if you are against war you are against the people committing the violent acts. Can one be against murder, cannabilism and pedophelia and not be against Jeffrey Dahmer?

Refusing to define the enemy is an intentional political ploy funded by oil monarchies and political organizations like CAIR to distract our attention, obscure culpability and diffuse our response. Radical Islamists have certainly defined their enemy. From their perspective, ANYBODY who does not adhere to a strict form of Sharia Law is an infidel, apostate or non-believer deserving of punishment and death.

Given that Sharia calls for complete submission to a religion, culture and set of laws that do not support freedom of religion, dress, speech, education, diet, commerce, marriage and sexual orientation it is incompatible with our constitution and immoral to support people who wish to practice it in the United States.

If you care about human rights, you should help to define, identify and confront those who are trying to take them away from you. Otherwise, you are just tacitly supporting the extremists and hiding behind the strength of others who are fighting to protect the freedoms you enjoy.

2 people like this
Posted by Bigotry, Anyone?
a resident of another community
on Sep 12, 2016 at 3:39 pm

[Post removed.]

10 people like this
Posted by revdreileen
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 12, 2016 at 5:00 pm

revdreileen is a registered user.

It was one of the great joys of my life to participate yesterday in the Multifaith Peace Walk and picnic hosted by American Muslim Voice. The beautiful diversity of our community walking together, singing together, praying together, each in our own way, but also as a part of one human family was a life-giving enactment of the power of hope.

Please note that the correct spelling is Kristi Iverson. Many people came together to organize this event, but Kristi Iverson and Rev. Diana Gibson were the key people to keep track of the many details needed to make this beautiful day possible.

15 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Sep 12, 2016 at 5:14 pm

@longtime resident (Midtown):

Yes, the march was previously announced. Here at Palo Alto Online, it was covered on September 8th in this article:

Web Link

There was also a listing in the Community Calendar:

Web Link

and the event itself has its own website:

Web Link

My assumption is that it was promoted as well via the regular social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, etc.

There was ample notice.

30 people like this
Posted by reality check
a resident of another community
on Sep 12, 2016 at 7:33 pm

To "can't, won't, don't" -

that is about the finest post I've ever read, any time, any place, any media....

Thank you!

4 people like this
Posted by Kristi Iverson
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2016 at 9:59 am

I stand with my Muslim friends and neighbors.

23 people like this
Posted by Floored
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2016 at 10:38 am

Floored is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

19 people like this
Posted by Slapped in the Face
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2016 at 2:48 pm

Slapped in the Face is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

7 people like this
Posted by Islamaphobia
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2016 at 2:52 pm

Slapped-- what about all the American born, Christian terrorists-- OKC, Sandy Hook, aurora theatre shooting, abortion providers killed or attacked and this is just a small sampling.

18 people like this
Posted by Slapped in the Face
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2016 at 4:32 pm

Slapped in the Face is a registered user.

The OKC Bomber never professed to be a Christian. He was one sick individual, though-- and when captured was shown no mercy: he was executed.

[Portion removed.]

The Sandy Hook killer was autistic and possibly mentally ill. I worked with autistic kids for two years, and can tell you that there can be a tendency to sudden violence with autistic makes in their adolescent years ( this does not appear to be true of autistic females, of which there are far fewer). I quit working with these kids because it was indeed dangerous, and I had children of my own at home.

The Aurora killer was very obviously our-of-his-mind and not in touch with reality. These examples you give do not compare with the religious fanaticism of Islam.

That said, if a Christian fanatic were to attack his own people, then peaceful Christians have an obligation to denounce any violent act committed by that Christian, especially if he committed it in the name of Christianity.

I am not a Christian, but if an atheist committed a terrorist act against anyone in this country, be assured I would condemn and renounce that atheist and violent act, particularly if that violent act were committed in the name of atheism!

Please don't compare apples to oranges!

3 people like this
Posted by No apples, no oranges
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 13, 2016 at 4:54 pm

Slap- yes condemn all acts of terrorism. However in your deleted post you condemned all Muslims. Now you ate making excuses for Christian terrorists.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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