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Los Angeles Times: Southland events mark Sept. 11

September 13, 2010
In The News

By Patrick McDonnell and Ruben Vives

People across Southern California took part in vigils, prayer services and other acts of remembrance Saturday as the region marked the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

"I just decided to drive up and make this my memorial celebration," said Rose Diaz, one of many who took a reflective interlude on the campus of Pepperdine University in Malibu, off Pacific Coast Highway.

There, on the sloping lawn of Alumni Park, were arrayed almost 3,000 flags — one for every fatality in the attacks — in what has become an annual memorial at Pepperdine. Motorists stopped to amble among the fluttering banners.

"It's very moving to see the flags in the breeze," Diaz said.

Among the many people observing moments of silence in the region were L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), who were attending a back-to-school health fair sponsored by First AME Church of Los Angeles.

Figuring into various ceremonies was revulsion for what many view as a rising tide of anti-Muslim sentiment, underscored by a Florida pastor's heavily publicized threat to burn copies of the Koran, Islam's holy text.

"The message I want to send is that not all Muslims are terrorists," said Nadia Nawaz, 27, who was among about two dozen people gathered outside the Islamic Center of Southern California in Koreatown. The center hosted an interfaith peace vigil honoring the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. "We can't all be blamed for the actions of a select few."

Inside the center, visitors were greeted by a handcrafted quilt containing the names of all the 9/11 victims. Speakers called for unity among people of different faiths and creeds.

"We are one team in the United States," said Michael Downing, deputy chief with the Los Angeles Police Department.

Rifat Masood, a Pakistani consular official who spoke at the gathering, called Sept. 11 "a turning point in the history of the world" and lamented its negative consequences.

"Instead of bringing people together in fighting the forces of evil and the forces of hatred and the forces that create divisiveness … it has led to increasing hatred. It has led to a period of religious bashing," Masood said.

Added another speaker, the Rev. Ed Bacon, pastor of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena: "We don't need to be burning the holy Koran, we need to be studying" it.

At the upscale Grove shopping center, a dozen non-Muslim women made their own statement: They donned headscarves in what they called an act of solidarity with Muslim women.

"We wandered around, but nobody paid any attention to us, which is a good thing," said Pat McDonnell, one of the participants. "We wanted to say something, that wearing of a headscarf does not make you a bad person."

At St. Luke's Presbyterian Church in Rolling Hills Estates, the Rev. Reinhard Krauss presided over a multi-faith reading of verses from the Koran. More than 150 Christians, Jews and Muslims took part, splitting into small groups to discuss the passages, said Krauss, co-pastor of the church.

"The energy was very positive; people discussed the text actively," Krauss said. "Many discovered similarities and parallels that resonated with them and with their own sacred texts."

At Santa Monica Beach, next to the busy pier, beachgoers could observe a series of displays that included portraits of Sept. 11 victims and a large banner with the names of the dead. Although most of the victims were U.S. nationals, they also included people from dozens of other countries.

"Today we reflect, and tomorrow we continue rebuilding," said Joseph Biggs, 54, a nurse from Philadelphia. He said he was thinking of a friend who perished when the World Trade Center's north tower collapsed.

The Santa Monica event was organized by World Memorial, a nonprofit group dedicated to honoring those who lost their lives in the Sept. 11 attacks.

"It comes down to two words," said Mitch Mendler, president of World Memorial: "Never forget."

Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times