On Memorial Day, about 60 people gathered to read the names of people killed in current wars and — if they chose — to drop roses into the Genesee River.
Remembrance and Hope: A Memorial Day service of remembrance of the victims of the current wars. 9 a.m. May 30. Frank and Janet Lamb Sister Cities Bridge, Pedestrian bridge at Genesee Crossroads Park, Bragdon Place.
The event is organized by members of the every Sunday peace vigil on the corner of East and Goodman.
People come for different reasons, but especially because they find the mostly silent ceremony a fitting way to reflect, collectively and individually, on peace and war.
Alex White — who you’ve met before — would later walk with the Veterans for Peace at the downtown Parade. Lilita Lassen-Ward said she did not personally have a connection with veterans, but for her this was a better way than parades and marching soldiers to honor and remember those killed in war.
Like Lilita, I’ve never experienced war. I did live in Kosovo about ten years after the 1999 war. The painful memories still fresh, the subject was taboo for most people; in the countryside we still had to watch out for signs saying, Unexploded Ordinance. When I saw the roses floating on the Genesee, I thought of the flowers on the Martyr’s Wall in Pristina.
The ceremony was first held Memorial Day, 2003, a few months after the Invasion of Iraq, about the same time the peace vigil on the corner of East and Goodman began.
As explained by one of the organizers, Thomas Moore, the ceremony honors all those killed in current wars, but he also wants us to remember the killing has hardly ended in Iraq. Last year 16 or 17,000 people died by violence, including many children. Thomas cites a reference made by Pope John Paul II on how an invasion of Iraq could open “the gates of hell.” Pope John Paul II did not live to know just how prophetic he would be.
Thomas emphasizes that Iraq — like current wars — was another televised spectacle of a war that seemingly directly affected few in the American public. I was in Providence, RI in a sports bar when the news of the invasion broke. Viewing the first footage — as the other TV’s showed their games — one man said he was going home to watch, “Shock and Awe.”
Thomas thinks of Shock and Awe differently. Thankfully, he has never experienced anything like Shock and Awe, and can’t fully imagine what it’s like. But when Thomas hears and sees fireworks — pointing around to the many places you can see fireworks from Crossroads Park — he wonders what those who have lived though war feel when they see and hear the exploding sky lit up and the staccato white bursts of noise.At the Parade I met, Denise M. Williams, president of D.M. Williams Funeral Home, herself a U.S. army veteran. Denise said that three years ago, she was invited to join the Parade. Denise has chosen to pull on her motorcycle a hearse in which are placed American flags. The flags and hearse are to remind us what Memorial Day is really about.