Monday, January 01, 2001

Peace Bell rings in its second new year


Celebration was no match for last year's hoopla

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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World Peace Bell
(File photo)
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        NEWPORT — The crowds weren't as large, and the hype didn't have the same pop as on New Year's Eve 2000. But for the few souls who waited Sunday for the World Peace Bell to ring in 2001, the 33-ton bronze beauty was just as grand, its G-natural tone just as sweet.

        “Amazing. It's beautiful,” said Jim Coppock of Mount Lookout as the bell swung above his 12-year-old son Na than's head and his two other sons watched.

        The quartet had just attended a three-hour interfaith celebration at the Syndicate restaurant/nightclub across the street.

        “I'm glad the boys hung in to the end,” Mr. Coppock said, red-faced and shivering. “I'm sure they'll remember this for a long time.”

        It has been 12 months since the bell first sounded here, ushering in the new millennium and putting Newport on the map for having the largest free-swinging bell on the planet.

        A year ago, some 15,000 people gathered at the bell's base. Then-Miss America Heather French, now the wife of Kentucky Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, sang. Gov. Paul Patton gave a speech.

        A TV station broke into regular programming every hour for 24 hours when the bell rang, marking 2000 around the globe.

        And the bell — more than 30 times heavier than the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia — gained national media attention as one of the symbols of a new age.

        Compared to that pageantry, the Peace Bell has had a relatively quiet year since.

        There was a candlelight vigil in memory of John Lennon on the date of his death, Dec. 8. The Dalai Lama presided over a vigil for a Global Day of Compassion on Dec. 10. More than 50 school groups and 50 tour buses visited in the first year.

        And the bell still rings on the hour, every day, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

        But mostly, the bell has been the backdrop for a few fund raisers, art exhibits and weddings.

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The tower is waiting on the IRS and the sale of tax-free corporate bonds.
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        As the new year begins, the bell's supporters predict a noisier, more glamorous future.

        Northern Kentucky businessman and developer Wayne Carlisle, who spent $2 million to bring the bell to Newport, says plans are on track to build an accompanying Millennium Tower next to it.

        It is expected to take 26 months to build the $85 million tower, which will stand 1,014 feet above downtown Newport. With the tower, three sections will project from the center at various heights, anchored at the base by a two-story building.

        The tower may include at least two restaurants and would be paid for with tax-free corporate bonds. A separate corporation, Millennium Monument Center, plans to sell the bonds using a special IRS status.

        If the tower is built on schedule and opens in 2003, it can further illuminate the World Peace Bell and attract more people to downtown Newport, Mr. Carlisle says.

        “I've said all along that I haven't been sure what kind of impact we might have,” Mr. Carlisle says.

        “But as long as we moved everybody who came to see the bell a little bit further in their awareness about the need for peace, then we have accomplished something worthwhile.”

        The bell is impressive.

        With a circumference of 113 feet, its lower rim is large enough for at least 20 people of average size to stand beneath.

        Cast at a foundry in Nantes, France, the bell's sides are etched with three young children from different cultures holding each other's hands. Around the top are engraved highlights of the last millennium, including astronauts on the moon and a computer chip.

        Dr. Brannan Hill, head of the theology department at Xavier University, calls the World Peace Bell a marvelous symbol of peace in Cincinnati.

        “There is still fighting and violence in so many parts of the world,” he said.

        “We are very fortunate to live where we do, where there is no conflict and everyone comes together from so many different faiths. I believe the bell is one of the things that has brought us together.”

        Sunday, the bell worked its message even to those who knew nothing about it.

        Jeremiah Bayes, 22, of Hyde Park, came out along with 500-plus others for the Interfaith Service in Celebration of World Peace and Justice at the Syndicate. He didn't know about the bell but was excited about its message of justice and peace.

        Looking out over a sea of people of different faiths — Hindus, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Native Americans, Muslims and more — Mr. Bayes was moved by the community.

        “They're all harmonizing together, celebrating together and all these people are sitting together,” he said. “What you end up with is the effect of wholeness or unity —which is why I came.”

        Jennifer Mrozowski contributed to this report.

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