Late Wednesday afternoon on the New Haven Green, a baby looked up from its stroller, an American flag clutched in his hand. Nearby, a banner of the Unitarian Society of New Haven read, “May Peace Abide on Earth.”
Despite wind and an ominous sky, hundreds of people gathered on the Green at 5:30 p.m. for an interfaith service and candlelight vigil commemorating the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
To begin the ceremony, six members of the New Haven Police Department Honor Guard presented their flags. Douglas MacDonald, assistant chief of the New Haven Police Department, saluted and stood silent as they made their presentation.
MacDonald said he was pleased with the turnout, though he noticed the lack of Yale students at the event.
“I would like to see more University students [here],” MacDonald said. “That would be nice. But I assume everyone is observing in their own way.”
After “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played, Imam Abdul Hasan of the Muhammad Islamic Center chanted a call to worship. The Rev. Samuel Ross-Lee, a president of Interfaith Cooperative Ministries, then spoke about the terrorists who attacked the United States one year ago, calling them “narrow-minded fundamentalists” who “do not share our values or appreciate our freedoms.”
Ross-Lee added that he still believes it possible for the world to live in hope and freedom.
New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. called for “renewal and rededication” during his speech.
“Sept. 11 is an opportunity to remind ourselves of what we are and what we can be,” DeStefano said. “It is a good future. It is a good city.”
The ceremony also included readings from the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Quran. After these readings, Rabbi Alan Lovins of Congregation Beth El-Keser sang a memorial prayer.
Following the prayer, the Rev. Kathleen McTigue, a minister of the Unitarian Society of New Haven, read a litany she wrote in response to Sept. 11.
“All around us we hear the language of war sounding out,” McTigue said. “We are called into the stronger lilt and music of a different syntax, a language of peace, a language in which our future can still beckon us as a place of safety and nurture, justice and harmony.”
Yale Chaplain Frederick Streets later reinforced McTigue’s call for peace and said people need to “wrestle from destruction a new life.”
Streets said that while perpetrators of mass violence seek to humiliate people, communities and nations, Americans are resilient in times of crisis.
After Streets spoke, Red Cross volunteers distributed candles, and those gathered on the Green helped each other to light them as they sheltered the flames from the wind. The brief candlelight vigil, followed by a moment of silence, marked the end of the event.
Gary Moore, a football coach at Hyde Leadership Academy and track coach at Hillhouse High School, both in New Haven, attended the service. He brought with him girls from his track team and four captains of his football team. He said he was impressed by the ceremony and his students’ willingness to attend.
“I didn’t have to twist any arms,” Moore said. “I thought [the ceremony] was nice. — [It was] a great idea to have it.”
The vigil was one of several New Haven events commemorating yesterday’s anniversary. Wednesday afternoon, the Connecticut Peace Coalition New Haven held a vigil and memorial outside of Yale’s Battell Chapel to honor the victims of wars everywhere. Other events included the Bells that Remember campaign and United Way’s Day of Caring, which included a blood drive.