Columbia residents marked the twelfth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks with a gathering for peace Wednesday night. The event doubled as a demonstration against possible military action in Syria.
About 40 people sat in quiet contemplation outside the Boone County Courthouse as they listened to songs and speeches for peace. The Mid-Missouri Peace Coalition organized this gathering. With a look back to 9/11 and forward to Syria, they called it “No More Victims.”
“We have all become victims,” said MU geography professor Larry Brown, one of the key speakers. Brown has studied terrorism – the history of terrorist acts, and exactly what defines terrorism anyway. He said the definition depends on who you ask – it depends on which side of the story you’re on.
“You’ve heard it said, ‘One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.’ Yes,” he said, pausing. “I would say, the war on terror is terrorism.”
The way Brown sees it, we create terror.
The music, which was led by community member Steve Jacobs, along with other spoken remarks also focused on story and perspective when it comes to war and terror.
Jim Williams remembers being a 12-year-old boy in the late 1960s, during the Vietnam War. That’s when he first joined the peace movement, and he’s been writing quotes about peace for years – some of which he shared at the gathering.
“One day, we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but it is the means by which we arrive at that goal,” he said. “We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means. All people free to choose will always choose peace.”
Activist Carolyn Mathews stood up from her spot in the audience during a pause in the event to make an announcement: She had a little something for the people in attendance. Her mother, Gertrude Marshall, a Quaker, had been active in the peace movement, as well. One time, as a thank-you for her efforts, Marshall had received a necklace made of tiny origami cranes – cranes that represented peace. Mathews happened to be wearing that necklace on Wednesday, but it had broken, and some of the cranes had fallen off. She brought a basket of fallen peace cranes and handed them out.
Community activist Jeffery Frey said he would like to see the international criminal court step in – he’d like to see people enforce a chemical weapons ban, instead of “a unilateral strike by the American empire, yet again.”
He was glad about President Barack Obama’s choice, discussed in a speech Tuesday night, to postpone military action. “But hopefully,” Frey said, “we can avert it all together.” (Read the text of Obama's address regarding Syria here.)
If the U.S. takes military action against the Syrian government, the peace coalition will hold a candlelight vigil the next day. If there is a decision made against violence, the coalition will hold a candlelight vigil of celebration.
For some, opinions on involvement in Syria have religious roots – take a look at some of those perspectives here.
You can also read one Hartsburg pastor's reflections on peace and memories associated with 9/11.
This story was produced in partnership with Columbia Faith & Values.