Friday, September 9, 2011

Saratoga California - 9/11 Observance: Moving Forward: Transformation through Community Engagement

On September 7th the Islamic Networks Group (ING) in partnership with the Council on American Islamic Relations – San Francisco Bay Area, Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center, Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose, Jewish Community Relations Council, and the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council (SiVIC) hosted an interfaith gathering commemorating the tenth anniversary of 9/11 in Saratoga, CA.  The event was meant to both memorialize the victims and honor those who sacrificed their lives trying to save others on that day.

There was a lovely reception with Middle Eastern snacks. The lobby of the McAfee Center was colourful with all the religious garb and other nicely dressed attendees. There were over 30 religious leaders, a dozen first responder representatives and Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese, two filmmakers and I would estimate 100-150 attendees and staff. Local service organizations were present in the lobby offering volunteer opportunities.

The program started with the documentary Love Hate Love by Dana Nachman & Don Hardy chronicling three families torn apart by terrorism. The Aldermans lost a son in NYC's World Trade Center, the Hymans lost a sister in the London Underground bombings and the third story was about Ben Tullipan, who was himself caught in the Bali nightclub bombing where he was severely burned and lost both of his legs. In each case the survivors turned to helping others in their search for meaning. The Aldermans have created mental health clinics in war torn areas to help those afflicted with PTSD make new lives. The Hymans support a children's eye clinic in India because their lost sister  discovered as a teenager that she was nearsighted and corrective lenses let her appreciate art. Ben helps new amputees get back on their feet and supports the Bali community with his import store in Australia. It was very nicely done and filled with hope and meaning.

After the film, Supervisor Cortese welcomed people and the 30 faith leaders processed up to sit on stage. (So I have no pictures of the event, first they put us in the very back and then on stage.)  Then the first responder representatives were called and they joined us on stage. We had four keynote faith leader speakers Fr. Jon Pedigo from the Catholic Diocese, Shifu Jian Hu from the Sunnyvale Zen Center, Rabbi Dana Magat from Temple Emmanuel and Imam Aladdin El Bakri (that is Al eh Deeeen not Aladdin like the Disney movie). Between them they hit on absolutely every theme that was appropriate for the day. I am very impressed by our local interfaith community!

We finished on time and folks were so energized that they continued to chat in the lobby (and finish off the snacks). It was a really beautiful ceremony and brought our community together.

Rowan Fairgrove
NCLC Interfaith Rep

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