Crowds gathered across the country on Sunday to commemorate the tenth anniversary of 9/11. These gatherings took different forms; from vigils to press conferences, days of service to roundtable discussions. IMAN has always been surrounded by a family of community organizations, faith-based institutions and residents on the Southwest Side of Chicago and was proud to spend 9/11 in the company of the people who make up these groups.
A Day of Remembrance and Solidarity was held on the steps of St. Rita Parish, the local Catholic Church. As the crowd of local residents, sprinkled with Chicagoans from across the city, swelled outside the church, Father Tony Pizzo took the microphone to welcome all in attendance. Following Father Tony, a litany of speakers explained why the diverse community in Chicago Lawn has been and continues to be a source of ethnic and multi-faith solidarity at a time of continuing polarization across the nation.
IMAN’s Executive Director Rami Nashashibi followed Father Tony with a short speech that made clear the day’s theme would be solidarity and unity. Jeff Bartow, Executive Director of the Southwest Organizing Project, spoke about anti-foreclosure and anti-violence efforts that have brought together organizers in the area, and Jane Ramsey, Executive Director of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, shared briefly on the long legacy of Jewish Chicagoans engaged in the struggle for justice. Along with Father Tony, faith leaders from Ephraim Bahar Cultural Center and Beth Shalom Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation all shared the universal message of love for humanity.
The event concluded with local elected leaders sharing their perspectives on the significance of this anniversary and echoing calls to use it as an opportunity to stand united as a community and as a country. State Senator Jacqui Collins and Alderwoman Tony Foulkes spoke on the uniqueness of Chicago Lawn, while County Commissioner Chuy Garcia delivered a strong message of hope in both English and Spanish. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin was in attendance and shared a moving story of coming home to Illinois after 9/11 to be greeted by an immigrant cab driver who had been verbally beaten and attacked, as his son served proudly in the U.S. Special Forces.
While serving as a time to honor and remember those who died on 9/11 and as a result of subsequent wars, the event also exemplified the unity and solidarity that runs deep throughout Chicago Lawn. In one of Chicago’s most diverse but poverty-stricken neighborhoods, the opportunity in adversity is still recognized as events that have caused strife in other places brings entire communities together here.