America's Tragedy: Vigils send out solemn regards

Friday, Sept. 14, 7 p.m.

The moment in time brought people together -- wherever they were.

From the waterfront to the high school football stadium, citizens of Hood River joined in a national candlelight vigil at the same moment, in response to last week's terrorism attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.

A vigil at Overlook Memorial Park attracted a solemn crowd that swelled as the half-hour gathering went on.

The sky turned from pale blue to pink-orange as the sun set and, as if to declare a sense of normalcy amid the week's chaos, a steady breeze blew throughout the ceremony rippling the parks' flags that flew at half staff.

Gary Young, chaplain of Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital, spoke from a microphone as the crowd encircled him. He led the group in a litany as well as in "God Bless America."

Most who gathered had brought their own candles, and passed around extras to those without. When the breeze extinguished candles, as it did often throughout the gathering, they were quickly re-lit by both friends and strangers.

At the end Young told the crowd, "Do not be quick to leave this place." And people weren't. After Young asked that everyone turn to a stranger and introduce themselves, everyone on hand did so and most lingered as it grew dark to chat with both new acquaintances and old friends.

"I guess I just wanted to be with other people," said Susan Denzer DeBonis. "I felt it was important to be out there adding to the larger spirit of what was happening -- to be part of that larger collective."

Meanwhile, about 40 people attended an impromptu prayer and meditation vigil at the Event Site, organized in part by Jennifer FitzSimons of Hood River.

"It was solemn but hopeful," she said. "People were there to comfort each other."

FitzSimons went around downtown inviting people just hours ahead of time, and invited every windsurfer she saw at the Event Site itself; almost all of them came.

"A lot of people were glad to know it was happening. They knew they wanted to be somewhere at 7 p.m.," FitzSimons said.

Julianne Matzell guided the group in a prayer that included these words:

"Let us all take a moment of silence and pray for those who have been killed or injured and for their family and friends.

"Let us pray for our neighbors and our community -- that we can all practice peace and tolerance. It starts with each one of us."

Following a 10-minute meditation, people gathered in small groups, FitzSimons said.

"There was a lot of talk about hope for peaceful resolution," she said.

Players from the Hood River Valley and Dallas teams removed their helmets and lit candles as everyone in attendance observed a prolonged moment of silence. Everyone then joined in to sing "My Country 'Tis of Thee."

The Boy Scouts of America raised the American flag and lowered it to half staff before the singing of our national anthem -- a moving rendition that featured the first and third verses.

A Gorge Youth Football League team took a break from practice next to Henderson Stadium and, along with family members who lit candles, paid their respects in the pre-game observance.

After roughly a half hour of pregame ceremonies, the teams took the field and did their part to help the community move forward and put behind the tragic events of the past week.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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