One week ago, members of the Ogden community joined together to honor victims of the mosque massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand. People from all walks of life gathered on the steps of Ogden’s city hall March 27. The weather was overcast, and the mood was somber. Small children climbed the steps and held posters with photos of victims. We had the honor of hearing from the president and chairman of the Islamic Center of Kuwait, located in South Ogden, Mohammed Al-Tigar. He shared messages in Arabic and English, encouraging us to get to know each other, while also offering prayers and readings from the Koran. His gentle eyes reinforced his message that we must stand together as a community and find our common ground while honoring our differences. And to think, it almost didn’t happen.
When I heard about the terrorist attack of the mosques on the news, I was overwhelmed. It felt as though I were under water. I couldn’t think of what to do. I regularly respond to crises, plan celebrations and engage in conversations, but I was paralyzed. With tears in my eyes, I told my husband, “It’s too much.” However, it wasn’t too much for Ami Noshiravan, a member of Ogden’s Diversity Commission. She sent an email to commission members the next day, sharing not only her horror regarding the attack, but her dismay that it happened during Norooz, one of the most joyful times of the year, celebrated by many faiths as the Iranian or Persian new year. She wanted to know what we could do.
Commissioners began sharing ideas and offering language for a statement from the commission. However, vice chair Priscilla Martinez sprang into action. She contacted Mary Khalaf, a community member who has attended multiple events and meetings the commission has participated in over the last two years. Mary is as a member of the mosque and an individual who is willing to work with the community. When Priscilla called, Mary was shocked. She thought that nobody cared. She didn’t realize that many of us were suffering along with her and the other members of the faith, looking to do something positive with our grief.
From this phone call, and with the support of Viviana Felix, the diversity liaison for Ogden city, a vigil was planned. A vigil is a time to keep watch when the rest of the world is sleeping. It is a time to pray and seek guidance when it feels that all may be lost. On this day, we were able to connect in broken place to make ourselves stronger individually as well as collectively. The willingness that people had to open up and be a part of something new was transformative. As I watched individuals stand on the steps to share their thoughts and beliefs, I was heartened by the reminder that we can learn with and from each other.
Standing outside in the beautiful garden surrounding city hall with friends and strangers felt like an amazing way to honor those who had passed. As Mary and her husband read victims’ names in remembrance, I was reminded of 50 people I would never have a chance to meet. I am reminded that 50 people who were just living their lives and practicing their faith are gone. It makes honoring the new connections I make that much more important.
The power of one multiplies and grows when it is matched with others. There is power when one person sees something should be done and then reaches out to others in recognition that it cannot be done alone. This power helps transform individual grief into collective action and engagement in our community.
How will you demonstrate your power of one?