Olympia WA - March 20-21, 2009
Representing the desire for peace and reconciliation, the Memorial is a display of markers for documented civilian deaths following the US-led invasion in March 2003.
Photo by Berd
The Olympian by Matt Batchelder Photo by Tony Overman March 21, 2009
OLYMPIA – More than 3,000 laminated white sheets - representing Iraqi civilian casualties - were pushed into the ground at Heritage Park to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the Iraq War.
The memorial to Iraqi civilian dead in the Iraq War continues today, starting with intentional meditation at 8 a.m. and ending with the closing ceremony at 4 p.m.
About 30 people gathered Friday to commemorate the occasion with a silent single-file walk around part of Capitol Lake. Then the group huddled under a small tent to remember the dead as driving wind and rain began to pluck the sheets from the soil.
"Everyone who believes in peace and wants peace ... should live that," Koro Kaisan Miles said in an interview. Miles, a Zen Buddhist priest at Open Gate Zendo in Olympia, led the march.
The event was organized by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, an interfaith peace group that dates to 1914. Also participating were Veterans for Peace and the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation, said Douglas Mackey, one of the organizers. The memorial will remain in place until after a closing ceremony at 4 p.m. today.
Mackey said the memorial was meant to pique the public's interest about getting to know the Iraqi casualties.
"We are responsible as citizens of this country for this war," he said. "I think that if we don't do something, then we are not part of the solution."
Mackey said the names of the dead were culled from iraqbodycount.org, a Web site that tracks the dead from the news media, as well as medical and other sources. The memorial contains a fraction of the estimated 91,131 to 99,510 documented civilian deaths from violence there, according to the Web site.
The conflict in Iraq is misunderstood by the public, Mackey said, because it was not covered in the same grisly detail as the Vietnam War. The memorial is educational, he said.
One of the speakers at the memorial was an Iraqi who told his story of the war, in which he lost a brother. Salam Talib Hassan worked as a journalist and a driver in Iraq. He recalled going to a makeshift morgue when he thought he had lost his mother and seeing the masses of dead bodies.
"Iraqis are people," he said, "just like you." (downloaded 3/26/09 for
(downloaded 3/26/09 for posterity)
|The Iraq Memorial to Life began its national
tour in Olympia, WA yesterday. Representing the desire for peace and
reconciliation, the Memorial presents markers for the civilians whose
deaths have been documented to be a result of the U.S.-led invasion that
began March 19, 2003.
If you would like to help with this project or schedule a visit to your community, please conatact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Media contact: Dennis Mills 360 888-3704
Iraq Memorial Capitol Lake
One section of markers
Women in black bear witness
Woman in Black with rose
Salam to place Marker
|Iraq Memorial Starts in Olympia
Volunteers made the thousands of markers and placed them on Friday by Capitol Lake.
Some markers had the person's name and age but many more were listed as "Unknown." The official agency counting deaths could not obtain the information. Many families just know that their loved ones went missing. While the numbers of markers was overwhelming, it was nowhere close to the number of civilians who have died.
The Memorial opening ceremony was held on March 20 and the daylong event included a walking mediation, a dedication and candlelight vigil. On Saturday, the warm sun brought people to the lake to walk the aisles and aisles of markers.
As I wondered through the aisles, I saw a man on crutches walking into the memorial. It was Salam Talib Hassan, an Iraqi who now lives in the United States. He was here to set a marker for his brother that was killed on his way to work. Ala'a Talib, 35 years old, was killed on his way to work. Her was shot 20 times and no one knows who was responsible. Salam said that his brother had recently gotten married; despite Salam's urging, his brother did not want to leave Iraq.
After Salam placed the marker, he noticed a marker for Richard Wild, a British journalist, a few markers away. Wild was living with Salam and several other journalists in Baghdad when he was killed July 2003. He was 24 years old when he was shot at very close range.
After the Memorial is taken down on March 21st, it will travel to various cities around the country before arriving in Washington, D.C.
This is a volunteer effort. If you are moved to help --to assemble markers, to bring the memorial to your community or financially—contact: email@example.com or www.iraqmemorialtolife.org
They also had a flyer with other ways people can help:
Collateral Repair Project: www.collateralrepairproject.org
Direct Aid Iraq: www.directaidiraq.org
No More Victims: www.nomorevictims.org
The List Project: www.thelistproject.org
Iraqi Health Project: http://Iraqhealthnow.org