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In L.A., Tributes From Many Faiths

Pleas for religious tolerance and solemn ceremonies mark local Sept. 11 events.

September 12, 2004|Stephanie Chavez | Times Staff Writer

Frank Garcia couldn't shake the sadness. He stood Saturday beneath a 22-foot rusting steel column that once braced the lobby of the World Trade Center, and now stands as a Los Angeles memorial to those who died on Sept. 11 three years ago.

"You think it's going to go away, you think you're done with the mourning and then you come to something like this and it all comes back," said the 48-year-old Alhambra man.

No relative or acquaintance of Garcia's died in the collapse of the towers. But he and his wife attended a Los Angeles Fire Department ceremony in Elysian Park because his brother, a California Highway Patrol officer, would rescue someone in danger, just like the firefighters at the World Trade Center, he said.

The bagpipe rendition of "Amazing Grace" brought tears to the couple's eyes. He bowed his head in prayer with several hundred others during the interfaith service. It was one of many ceremonies throughout the state that provided time to reflect on the day when three Los Angeles-bound airliners crashed into the New York skyscrapers and the Pentagon. A fourth, bound for San Francisco crashed outside of Pittsburgh.

"Yeah, I had forgotten how much 9/11 is still on my mind," Garcia said.

The anniversary events in Southern California included a pre-game salute to the military in Dodger Stadium, a tribute in wooden crosses on an Oceanside beach, and a march and protest at MacArthur Park.

During the LAFD ceremony, Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn and Fire Chief William Bamattre joined with Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, Rabbi Leonard Bearman and Maher Hathout, senior advisor to the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council, in a call for religious tolerance.

"I'm honored to be with firefighters who symbolized everything that was good, and restored our faith in humanity," Hathout said. "However, I'd like to be straightforward and say that there is a big fire that is raging.... This is a fire of religious fanaticism and political fanaticism.... It is the duty of people who have faith in God and faith in human decency to stand together to extinguish this fire."

Mahony said firefighters and police embodied the greatest of Christian virtues by "laying down their lives" for others.

At an earlier rally, about 1,000 people affiliated with the Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace marched from nearby churches to MacArthur Park, where they listened to clergy members, poets, musicians and former gang members denounce the Iraq war.

"We're hoping to demonstrate a different response to 9/11 than the mainstream," said the Rev. David Wheeler of First Christian Church in Lancaster.

"Rather than more war, lets build relationships and understanding. Healing rather than revenge."

Members of the Muslim Public Affairs Council displayed a quilt at MacArthur Park sewn two years ago honoring victims of Sept. 11.

"It was a very emotional project," said Hedab Tarifi, one of the council's board members.

"We made it in memory of the victims. But it's also a message for peace. There's a better way to live."

Times staff writer David Pierson and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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