Tribute declares ‘No Hate Zone’
For an emergency, call 9-1-1. Firefighters, police, medical technicians — whoever is needed — will respond.
But as those who attended Sunday’s Tribute to Unity candlelight vigil at Corydon Central High School learned, some people don’t have access to those three numbers.
“In my country, we don’t have the opportunity to dial 911,” said Lee Norton, an exchange student from Zambia.
The young South Africa woman has lived in the United States two years and attends Indiana University Southeast in New Albany. She was wearing the uniform of the Milltown Police Dept., where she is a reserve officer. In her homeland, Norton is a volunteer firefighter and an advanced emergency medical services worker.
“I am what I am wherever I go,” she said.
In Zambia, citizens respond to their neighbor’s need.
“If there’s a fire, we fight it,” Norton said.
She thanked the emergency personnel “who are there unconditionally” in time of need.
Community Unity, directed by president Robert Robinson, organized the Tribute — which took place on the two-month anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon — to remember and recognize those who are dedicated to protecting and serving persons of all faiths and nationalities. They declared the community “a No Hate Zone.”
“Since Sept. 11, a new threat has materialized and has been met with quiet courage,” said Milltown Chief Marshal Ray Saylor, a Community Unity member. “We have come to appreciate the day-to-day dedication and valor of another company of citizens, our postal workers.”
Corydon Postmaster Carmen Proffitt briefly described the Postal Service’s plan of “education, invention, intervention and prevention” since Sept. 11.
“We will not allow our service to be taken by a nameless, faceless enemy,” she said, adding that 30 billion pieces of mail have been processed since the terrorist attack.
The program, which took place on Veterans Day, also recognized the Armed Services.
“We value peace; we hope and strive for non-violent resolution to conflict,” Saylor said. “We also value the sacrifice of the men and women who go into battle for us when they must. They are men and women of a variety of ethnic backgrounds, of many faiths or of no faith, and they exclude none of us from their protection.”
Corydon VFW Post 2950 Commander Ed Simon led everyone in The Pledge of Allegiance. A huge American Flag hung from the Georgetown Volunteer Fire Dept.’s ladder truck.
Four of Harrison County’s 10 volunteer fire departments were represented. They were Corydon, Franklin Township, Heth Township and Ramsey. The EMS department at Harrison County Hospital as well as law enforcement personnel from the Corydon and Milltown police departments, Indiana State Police and Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. were there.
Since its formation about two years ago in response to a Ku Klux Klan rally in Corydon, Community Unity has sought ways to promote acceptance of everyone, regardless of race, gender, age, culture, religious or political beliefs, marital status, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability and economic or social status.
The 12 speakers on the makeshift stage in the school parking lot were a small but diverse representation of the county. Sister Rose Riley, principal at St. Joseph (Catholic) School; the Rev. C. David Cliburn of Corydon Presbyterian Church; Lyn Humphries, a Wiccan; and Thich Hang Dat, a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, all spoke.
(Dat recently purchased 80 acres in Harrison County and hopes to build a Buddhist temple here. See story below.)
Riley said she is “more appreciative” of “people who put their lives on the line. I don’t know that I could do that,” she said.
Rescue work is what Mike Maupin, a paramedic at HCH, does.
“I take pride in knowing the people who were killed were killed on their feet, doing what they love to do,” he said, adding a word about the “uncommon heroes, those who worked in the office buildings, the Pentagon and those who brought the plane down in Pennsylvania.”
Humphries, who caused a few of the Corydon Central High advanced choir members to raise their eyebrows when she said Wiccans practice witchcraft, thanked “the good people who stand watch over us.”
Humphries, a Crawford County resident and a member of Community Unity, said Wiccans “suffer the same” as everyone else when a tragedy occurs.
The youngest person to speak was Stephanie Smith, a junior at Corydon Central High School and vice president of the DIVE (Diversity, Integrity, Values for Everyone) Club.
She said the club “has high expectations for the future” to accept others as they are. “People never should be judged on their looks or physical features,” she said.
The advanced choir sang four songs, directed by Daniel Suddarth, and Freshly Brewed, a quartet of local musicians, also performed.
Cliburn called the terrorist attack “a horrible act against innocent people.”
Immediately after the attack, the world witnessed the courageous response of the rescue workers, he said.
“We have people of similar caliber here in Harrison County,” he said prior to praying that God would “break down the walls that segregate.”
By the time the program concluded, the clear blue skies had turned dark. A chill had set in after the warmth from the sun had disappeared. But soon a glow appeared in the dark parking lot.
“As we light our candles tonight, we remember the lives that have been lost, the lives that have been forever changed, the lives that have been given and the lives that are now at stake in pursuit of justice,” Saylor said. “We light these candles with love, and we push back the darkness.”
Another speaker said about the Tribute: “At the end, after listening to the breadth of speakers, and as we sang ‘America, the Beautiful,’ I had this strange sensation in my heart and throat,” said Mark Stein of Milltown. “I thought, ‘What is this?’ Then I realized it was a feeling that I have frankly never experienced before — patriotism.”
Stein, president of Mediation First in Louisville, is one of the early leaders in the Martin Luther King celebrations here, and helped erect the peace monument on the northeast corner of the Harrison County Court House.
“I was overwhelmed with such pride in being part of a community in which an organized, vocal and active group of citizens advocate for peace, justice, equality and tolerance,” Stein said. “I could feel our community really would welcome these newcomers (such as the Vietnamese Buddhists) whose religion and culture would be foreign to many.
“I was taking part in a celebration of not only a recognition of American heroes, but in a celebration of the diverse fabric of America,” he said. “To hear a police officer touting tolerance, acceptance and humanity towards all was extremely touching to me.”
Stein thanked Community Unity for organizing Sunday’s vigil, which was an opportunity for the group to make another statement about its desire for world peace.