March 28, 2003

Cornellians Mourn War Dead

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Silence enveloped Ho Plaza yesterday at noon as over 200 members of the Cornell community came together in what organizer Prof. William Trochim, policy analysis and management, called a “gathering to mourn all war dead.” The peace vigil, held simultaneously with similar events at New York University and other schools across the country, was sponsored by the Cornell Forum for Justice and Peace.

“We gather together because we recognize that every life has a purpose,” said Rev. Kenneth Clarke, director of Cornell United Religious Works, as he led the crowd in prayer.

An e-mail sent to faculty, staff and students in the College of Human Ecology by Trochim called for them to walk out of class at noon for a half-hour devoted to silence and mourning in the name of the people killed in the current U.S. war on Iraq. The message emphasized that this showing of grief was for all of the casualties of this war, whether civilian or military.

“War has begun, and with it, killing,” Trochim stated in the e-mail. “This expression of grief … will reaffirm our fundamental opposition to the infliction of suffering and death by war, and our sense of solemnity of the present moment.”

The gathering included a reading of an Israeli poem entitled “The Life and Death of Men” and two poems in Arabic by Iraqi poet Abdul Wahab al-Bayat, titled “Poem on Separation and Death” and “A Profile of a City.”

One member of the gathering read, “An Iraqi moon wipes its cheeks on the trees / Knocking at door after door in vain / Before the poet woke up, the princess / Had departed on a dove’s wing / Without saying farewell / May whoever sees her / Salute her.”

The crowd squinted into the rare Ithaca sun, standing silently as the McGraw Tower chimes tolled for a full five minutes.

“I thought it was a very somber event. … It was very emotional because it brought forth the reality of all the death and destruction that war causes and the sacrifice of human life,” said Umair Khan ’03, an organizer of the event.

“I think these kinds of events are entirely important because no matter how we feel, we have to have some way of gathering together and expressing it,” said Kate Thornton ’05 while the crowd was dispersing after the bells stopped ringing.

Near the gathering, six students stood holding a banner reading “No Blood for Oil.” While the banner-holders were not officially part of the gathering, Thomas Platt grad, who held up the center, said, “We’re all part of the same movement. We’re pretty united in our rejection of a war that the administration is bent on pursuing in an effort to control the resources in the Middle East.”

“When you have that kind of mass of people standing together in silence, the intensity is palpable,” said Tori Cohen ’05. “It was a very powerful event.”

“This is an immoral war and it makes it clearer than ever that the U.S. is an imperial force that is not at all concerned about democracy and human rights,” Platt said.

Archived article by Gautham Nagesh