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From Columbus: Exhibit is Graphic Reminder of Loss

By Carol Barnwell

ENS Photo by Carol Barnwell
More than 2,400 pairs of boots, each including the name, rank, age and home state of soldiers killed in the Iraq war, are set out the Ohio Statehouse lawn.   (ENS Photo by Carol Barnwell)

[Episcopal News Service]  General Convention generates many side events beyond committee meetings and legislative sessions. Among the many scheduled is "Eyes Wide Open," a display of combat boots representing the service men and women killed in the Iraq War.

Sponsored by the Episcopal Peace Fellowship and the American Friends Service committee, "Eyes Wide Open" is a three-day exhibition set up on the Ohio Statehouse lawn.

At an opening press conference on June 12, the Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, president and dean of Episcopal Divinity School, said: "As we gather here, we hear the sounds of the great city of Columbus.  Can you also hear the silence of the Iraqis and the young American men and women who are no longer with us?

"Can you hear that silence? Can you hear that silence?

"You and I can speak for them in the silence. We must let our country’s leaders know this war must end and never be repeated."

Charleston called for people to give voice to the silent witness of the thousands represented by the arrangement of shoes and boots. "Join them and give them voice," he said.  "Lift your voices in the shout of peace around the world: peace now, peace forever!"

The exhibition was created in January 2004 to "call attention to the human cost of the Iraq war and to memorialize both the U.S. and Iraqi casualties," according to the American Friends. It began with 504 pairs of boots and has traveled to 100 cities growing to more than 2,400 pairs of boots during that time.

The boots are grouped by state and territory and are tagged with name, rank, age and home state of the soldier. The majority of boots are purchased from an Army surplus store; however, more than a dozen families have donated boots actually worn by their loved ones, including Cindy Sheehan. Family, friends and other visitors have left memorabilia on the boots. 

Shoes in the exhibit represent Iraqis killed in the war. The civilian shoe exhibit is presented by the September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.  Although many of the shoes are tagged with names and ages, the number displayed is only a fraction of the estimated 100,000 actual deaths, according to the British medical journal The Lancet.

The schedule of events at the exhibit are as follows:  

Tuesday June 13
11:00 a.m.   Music, Connie Harris
11:15 a.m.   Dedication of new boots and shoes, the Rev. Alvin Hadley, Columbus Metro Area Church Council
11:30 a.m.   Speaker: Art Gish, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Hebron
11:45 a.m.   Speaker: Peggy Gish, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Baghdad
12:00 p.m.   Music: Michelle Lundy
12:15 p.m.   Speaker: Dalia Mohammad, Iraqi American
12:30 p.m.   Speaker: Dr. Brad Cotton, Veterans for Peace
12:45 p.m.   Music: Joanie Calem
1:33 p.m.    Adhan: Call to Prayer
5:31 p.m.    Adhan: Call to Prayer
9:02 p.m.    Adhan: Call to Prayer
9:15 p.m.    Candlelight Vigil

Wednesday June 14
11:00 a.m.    Music: Sue Cavanaugh
11:15 a.m.    Dedication of New boots and shoes: the Rev. Alvin Hadley, Columbus Metro Area Church Council
11:30 a.m.    Speaker: Dr. Ahmad Al-Akhras, Council on American-Islamic Relations
11:45 a.m.    Speaker: Zaineb Alani, Iraqi American
12:00 p.m.    Music: Leah-Carla Gordone
12:15 p.m.    Speaker: Deborah Franklin, Army Medical Company
12:30 p.m.    Peggy Logue, Mother of Lima Company Marine
12:45 p.m.    Music: RiaSoul
1:33 p.m.      Adhan: Call to Prayer
5:31 p.m.     Adhan: Call to Prayer
5:45 p.m.     Sending Prayers: Christian, Baha’i, Hindu, Jain, Muslim
                   Closing Procession

Names of those killed will be read continuously from the opening of the exhibit when no other program or prayer service is taking place, including any Muslim calls to prayer, musicians, speakers, or candlelight vigil singing.