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Ribbons called 'symbolic and emotional'

People gather in Battery Park in New York

People gather in Battery Park in New York during a dedication ceremony of the '9-11 Ribbons of Hope,' a tapestry made up of 12 tall mesh panels containing nearly 50,000 handwritten messages of hopes and prayers from all over the world.(Sept. 12, 2011) Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

More than 20,000 ribbons worldwide were dedicated Monday morning in Battery Park to honor those who died on Sept. 11 and recognize the grief that New York City and the nation have since endured.

In attempt to foster religious tolerance, "Prepare New York," an interfaith group made up of Muslim, Christian, Catholic and Jewish faith groups, as well as Buddhists and Native American spiritual leaders, offered prayers to dedicate "Ribbons of Hope."

Residents, tourists and 9/11 families were among the thousands to furnish the ribbons -- each bearing a handwritten message of peace -- on 12 tall, vertical mesh panels at the park.

The messages were solicited from across the country by the New York City-based coalition of interfaith groups as part of the Prepare New York initiative, which aims to foster community in the aftermath of the controversy generated by a proposal to build a mosque near the World Trade Center site. Some groups mailed in batches of messages while others came in digital form that the coalition transferred on to physical ribbons.

"This is very symbolic and emotional," said Joyce Dubensky, an executive with the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, 254 31st St.

The ceremony, one day after the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, drew several religious leaders in an effort to offer a healing message, event organizers said.

"We had people from all over the world writing in their own languages, and 9/11 families and police officers who stopped by after the ceremonies," Dubensky said. "They wrote what was in their hearts and on their minds."

The messages ranged from "Let the Spirit of Joy and Freedom Carry" in English to "Siempre Con Nosotros," (Always With You) from Spain.

Majbritt Miller, 56, of Denmark, wrote "A Wish for Peace" on her ribbon. She said she wrote her message after visiting Ground Zero Monday morning.

"We will never forget 9/11," she said. Miller mentioned Norway's recent tragedy, a July shooting spree that killed more than 80 people, and said, Sept. 11 "gives us all a special feeling that such things can happen anywhere, and we have to remember that."

The panel of ribbons will "travel throughout the city and will allow people to interact with each other and express their feelings," said Robert Chase, founding director of Intersections, which helped organize "Ribbons of Hope."

Curtis Zunigha, 58, of Oklahoma, a member of the Delaware tribe of Native Americans, offered an opening prayer.

"We turn to the Creator and ask from our own hearts and minds and pray that we may honor those who died and those who are working to make life better," said Zunigha, wearing traditional cultural clothing of his Lenape group.

He said Americans will never forget 9/11 and reminded those at the ceremony that "our greatest vulnerability is ignorance."


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