Groups commemorate 9/11 in statuesque silence

The Syracuse City Fire Department and the City Meditation Crew remember Sept. 11, 2001, with separate acts of live art, silence and a peaceful reading of the Quran.

Two events commemorating the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks Saturday took culturally different approaches, but both strove for the same result; silent remembrance and inner peace.

The Syracuse City Fire Department began the day at 7:30 a.m. with a “living art” show at Lipe Art Park on West Fayette Street in Syracuse. Firefighters and community members dressed in full fire gear recreated a pose from a photograph of an exhausted firefighter with his head in his hands after the attacks.

Photo: Maria Salatino
Members of the City Meditation Crew (CMC) sit silently Saturday on Syracuse University's Quad and read selected passages from the Quran.

Ackerman envisioned it more than a year ago while trying to plan a series of living art exhibits in the park.

“We’ve been talking about it for a long time, and this was one of the concepts, to do a memorial on Sept. 11th,” Ackerman said. “As it got closer, we said enough talking, let’s just do it.”

Firefighters volunteered their time to take half-hour shifts from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., posing in silence and remembering those lost.

As far as Ackerman knows, it’s the first time anybody has marked the day with the pose.

Ben Walsh, a steward of Lipe Art Park and Syracuse Neighborhood and Business Development deputy commissioner, helped found the park and develop it into a creative green space for local artists.

“You don’t always put the fire department and art in the same sentence,” Walsh said. “But you get somebody creative like [Ackerman] who comes up with it, and it was just a perfect fit.”

The day hit home for Syracuse Fire Chief Mark McLees, who spent the week after 9/11 in New York City assisting with search and recovery. He returned three weeks later with a team to help counsel affected FDNY workers. He is a Staten Island native who knew workers lost in the rubble. The day also marked his 55th birthday.

“I have a different kind of connection with New York City and the towers,” McLees said. “But how I feel is felt by every firefighter, because they know the courage those guys showed while standing in front of those towers.”

After 9/11, his wife suggested they celebrate his birthday in June or July, away from the day’s tragic events. On Saturday, McLees scoffed at the idea.

“Something like this is awesome, I couldn’t find a better way to celebrate my birthday than to do this,” he said. “I’m lucky I’m alive. I have so much to live for.”

At Syracuse University, performance group City Meditation Crew held a silent reading of the Quran on the Quad during the hours between the first plane strike and the crumbling of the second tower. The event was originally scheduled to coexist with the planned Quran burning by Florida Pastor Terry Jones.

“We encourage people to slow down and pay attention to their surroundings, both physical and cultural,” a City Meditation Crew coordinator said. “We’re here to call attention to a peaceful reading of the Quran.”

Dressed in white with wide brimmed hats, individuals of the Manhattan-based group remained silent and completely anonymous to emphasize the moment of peace and not draw attention to individuals.

Students and community members stopped and looked on with curiosity as the group meditated, some standing completely still while others sat on small black beanbags.

Chapters 2, 19 and 49 of the Quran were read at the suggestion of SU Assistant Islamic Chaplain Tanweer Haq.

“We are upset and alarmed by the current attempts to spread hate against Islam and the Muslim Community,” Haq said in a press release. “We call for respect for America’s tradition of religious liberty.”

Hendricks Chapel Dean Tiffany Steinwert supported the event and the chapel was open for anyone wishing to grieve or pay tribute.

Just after 8:45 a.m. Saturday, members of the City Meditation Crew begin their meditation and silent reading of the Quran on SU's Quad. (Photo: Maria Salatino)

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