Hundreds promote unity, peace at 9/11 interfaith event


Some men donned yarmulkes, a few women covered with hijabs. Others clutched crosses hanging from their necks.

But for a moment, none of that mattered. Sunday was about remembering all lost on Sept. 11, 2001 -- together.

"The things that unite us are far more important than the issues that divide us," said Elliot Karp, president of the Jewish Federation of Las Vegas. "What unites us is not that we're Christians or Jews or people from other faiths. We come together as Americans."

The Interfaith Council organized the Sunday remembrance event, which featured songs and readings about the emotions of 9/11. Several hundred people of various faiths gathered in the student union at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for the evening service.

Remembrance, fear, courage, sadness, hope and unity -- each was represented by a glowing candle on stage, or through a burning feeling in the hearts of the audience.

"Everybody wants peace," said Samira Rachih, a Muslim who participates in the Islamic Society of Nevada. "We are all American. We want to help the community."

Admittedly removed from ground zero, only a handful of people in the Las Vegas audience stood to show they had lost a loved one 10 years ago. But the distance and time were hardly noticeable, as those in attendance bowed their heads in solemn remembrance.

As keynote speaker, Maureen Peckman of the Nevada Commission on Homeland Security, put it: "Those lost on that eleventh day of September were just like you and me … Their stories are our stories."

She pointed out that even on the other side of the country, Las Vegans too have felt the impacts of that day: as a city that has had one of the slowest economic recoveries since Sept. 11, 2001, and as a place feared as an international target of further terrorism.

"So far away, what was lost there has been felt here," said Peckman, chief emerging business officer of the Cleveland Clinic Nevada.

The program didn't dwell on the sadness for long, instead focusing on the service of both uniformed heroes and civilian neighbors who stepped up to help strangers that day.

Rabbi Sanford Akselrad of Congregation Ner Tamid called Sunday's remembrance event "a call to action" for the community to continue that volunteerism.

Peckman echoed those remarks, stating that it is recommitting the investment in this community that pays tribute to those who can no longer contribute to their own hometowns across the nation.

The Rev. Gard Jameson of Grace Community Church called on the group to sign a pledge the program offered, making a commitment to be "community builders, communitarians and peacemakers."

"I think you need to come together on a day like today to show unity," said Jenni Zurflueh, whose husband and two daughters sang with the Latter-day Saints choir in the program.

"There's different people here, all different beliefs, but it shows we really are one nation under God."