Monday, September 17, 2001

Riot recovery

Divided city comes together

By Cliff Radel
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        One week ago today, Cincinnati stood as a city divided by race. The countdown was on for the start of the trial of Police Officer Stephen Roach.

        That trial begins Monday. Once again the city will relive the fatal shooting of Timothy Thomas. And be reminded of April's riots.

        But, on this Monday, the city stands united. Mourning. Remembering. Waving the flag. Volunteering, giving blood, making donations. Denouncing evil. All because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that claimed thousands of innocent lives in New York City, Washington D.C. and in a crater left by a plane crash in a Pennsylvania cornfield.

        The community's coming together raises hope. Cincinnati's racial divisions could be healed by patriotic unity.

Long may they wave

               The signs of unity are everywhere. Flags are flying. Throughout the weekend, traffic control message boards over local interstates gave these directions:

        “Support America's rescue and relief efforts.”

        Signs that such efforts — performed without regard for race or creed — can unite Cincinnati are also evident.

        Chris Brinker and employees from her downtown company lugged a 25-pound, seven-foot tall, papier-mache model of the Statue of Liberty to Fountain Square Friday. They took turns resting the nation's symbol on their shoulders during the service marking the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance.

        Chris is white. Looking around the crowd waving flags, she didn't see faces in skin tones. She saw people in hues of red, white and blue.

        “Look at all these people here,” she said. “They came to celebrate the freedoms the Statue of Liberty stands for.

        “They're all different. But they're all Americans.”

        Ed Hill is black. The Middletown business owner and Gulf War veteran brought his wife and two young children to the square.

        “We're here to show we care,” he said, clutching his three-year-old son, Eddie, and a flag. “The different faces in this crowd show we can all get along and agree.”

United we stand
A community united for one purpose can stay together for another. The gratifying local response to the nation's common tragedy can also be Cincinnati's common salvation. Terrorism and racism, two evils, can be eliminated.

        We can get along.

        “Look at the way we are coming together, shoulder to shoulder, like brothers and sisters,” said Francesca Trego.

        “There are no demarcations in color.”

        Born on Guam, living in West Chester and leading Pua Ka Mahina e me La, a Pacific Island dance ensemble, she participated in a rousing version of “God Bless the U.S.A” Saturday night with other members of the Inter-Ethnic Council of Greater Cincinnati at a banquet in the Westin Hotel.

        “People are talking to strangers,” she noted. “They're touching each other. The caring is back. In Cincinnati, this can help us heal our community's wounds.”

        Also at the banquet, Medasi — a music and drama troupe formed in 1997 to celebrate its members' African heritage — was led by Sherah Khamisi.

        “I pray that we can keep extending ourselves to talk to each other,” she said. “To defeat racism, to defeat any enemy, we must keep communicating.”

        Keep standing side by side. Keep talking. Keep praying.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.


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