James Christner (back) and Rich Hanford dropping roses. Memorial Day, 2017
In a ceremony begun after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, every Memorial Day people gather at the Frank and Janet Lamb Sister Cities pedestrian bridge at the Genesee Crossroads Park. There, witnesses read the names of soldiers and civilians killed in wars and drop roses — one for each victim — into the river.
See 2016 Ceremony Memorial Day, Peace and Rembrance, and roses floating in the Genesee
As explained by organizer Tom Moore, the event is not intended to be a contrast or opposition to the parade that takes place shortly afterward.
Instead, the ceremony is meant to provide another level of remembrance. This year — like previous years — the ceremony is the same, except new victims are added to the list. This year the names were of people who died in the current wars in Afghanistan and surrounding areas.
This year was Tim McGowan’s first ceremony. He had heard about the event on a church bulletin board. Tom gave Tim two names on a card: Anais Tobar, First Lieutenant, age 25 and Nagar al-Awlaki an 8 year old girl.
Neither Tom nor Tim had more details about the two victims. As Tim said, we just need to know what they had in common: they died in the indignity and violence of war.
When Tim dropped his two roses on to the river, he felt more deeply moved than he had anticipated. He said the names of Anais Tobar and Nagar al-Awlaki on the cards he put in his wallet would be with him for ever.
Later, Tim and I learned that Anais Tobar from Miami had died in the United Arab Emerites on non-combat injuries on July 18, 2016.
Nagar al-Awalki was killed in the January 31st raid into Yemen.