Silent Vigil Remembers War Losses

crosses, crescents and stars on front lawnA thousand grave markers on the lawn in front of the EMU Campus Center bear silent testimony to the loss of human life in the Iraq conflict.
Photo by Jim Bishop

Under the rubric, “Remembering the Cost, Mourning the Violence,” a thousand small white grave markers are occupying a portion of the lawn in front of the EMU Campus Center Nov. 8-12.

The crosses were erected by JustVoices, a group of about a dozen local citizens and students committed to nonviolent action, to remind the EMU campus and larger community of the human cost of war.

According to one of the organizers, Danny Malec, the 1,000 white markers represent the deaths of over one thousand U.S. soldiers and civilians in Iraq. Each of these 1,000 crosses, crescents and stars also represents at least 13 Iraqi citizens; thirteen humans, friends, co-workers, students, soldiers, and civilians who have died as a result of the U.S. action in Iraq, he noted.

Malec, a student in EMU’s Conflict Transformation Program, said the idea for the grave markers came from Katherine P. (Katie) Resendiz, another CTP student, noting that “about 30 community people made and painted the crosses.”

Constructing the markers, all fashioned from discarded wood, “was a moving experience,” he said.

Signs posted at several points surrounding the markers invite persons to “imagine 14 of your friends standing around each cross, crescent or star. Take some time to experience the loss yourself, and then to mourn the loss for the world that will never know these people.”

JustVoices has been actively engaging people on issues of justice, nonviolence and social action for nearly a year in the Shenandoah Valley. The EMU campus display represents the culmination of a four-month series of weekly protests on the actions in Iraq. Each week, a group has gathered on Court Square in downtown Harrisonburg to mourn over people covered in white linen, representing the unreported deaths in Iraq and the unpublicized return of bodies to the U.S.

The week-long display will end with a period of reflection and prayer on the Campus Center plaza 5 p.m. Friday (Nov. 12). All are welcome.

“The protests generated a variety of responses from the community, and we hope that this display elicits the same level of response here on campus,” Malec said. “I’ve seen people walking slowly among the markers, taking pictures and standing in quiet reflection.

“We’re open to help facilitate discussion on- and off-campus,” he added.