About 55 people gathered in Rockville Sept. 9 for a silent candlelight vigil to remember the more than 1000 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. Attendees sat in a circle around the fountain in front of the Montgomery County District Courthouse at Maryland and W. Montgomery Avenues.
Several organizations including MoveOn.org, the Win Without War coalition, and the National Council of Churches worked to coordinate over 900 simultaneous vigils nationwide. Each event, however, was put together by a local organizer.
Noticing that the nearest vigils were in Tacoma Park and Washington DC, organizer Elizabeth Crane of Rockville had registered the event on the website MoveOn.org less than 24 hours earlier. Signups came slowly at first, but by Thursday evening, nearly 50 people had registered.
As people arrived, Crane handed out color printouts from the New York Times’ “Roster of the Dead” showing the faces and names of each of the fallen soldiers. Many people held up the printouts beside their candles during the vigil. Several others held signs with messages like“1000 Dead,” “No End In Sight” and “How Many More?.”
The group included a large number of senior citizens as well as young people. Except for quiet requests for an extra candle as latecomers and passersby joined the circle, no one spoke for about 40 minutes.
Near the end of the vigil, Susan Sherwood of Rockville stood up and held up her page from the “Roster of the Dead.”
“This is the face of Patrick Nixon,” she said. “I read his name on the Mall the night of the State of the Union. There were 300 names at that time. Oddly enough, I saw it again at the gates of Dover Air Force Base where the American dead return from Iraq. Now there are more than 1000 dead and I wonder how long this must go on.”
Katharine Hallambauer of Dickerson sat holding only a candle. Her grandson, Sgt. Jeremy Simms of Gaithersburg is currently serving in the Marines outside of Baghdad. “All we hear is that it’s very, very hot,” she said before the vigil, adding that baby wipes are a precious commodity among soldiers stationed in the desert. Hallambauer captured the individual sadness of each death that the vigil aimed to commemorate. “Everyone over there is someone’s grandchild,” she said.