Like many communities across the country, Evanston will observe the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The photo above is of firefighters and police officers observing the National Day of Prayer on Sept. 14, 2001. RoundTable file photo

The Evanston community will observe the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the same spirit with which it held a vigil on Sept. 14, 2001 – mourning, honoring the dead and wounded, and calling for peace.

On Sept. 11, a Sunday this year, the police and fire departments will hold a ceremony at 8:45 a.m. at Dawes Park. Members of fire and police departments, clergy, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, Fire and Life Safety Chief Greg Klaiber and Police Chief Richard Eddington – first responders like those whose bravery characterized the 9/11 attacks – will speak. There will be a moment of silence at 9:11 a.m., and a bell will be tolled three, then four, then three times to honor the 343 firefighters who died in the Twin Towers.

Near the end of the ceremony a small piece of steel from the World Trade Center will be dedicated.

Chief Klaiber said, “Last year I was contacted by representatives from the New York and New Jersey Port Authority. They asked if our department would be interested in receiving an artifact from what remained of the World Trade Center. I completed the necessary paperwork and received the artifact last month. It is a small piece of steel which we will have mounted and placed in the vestibule for public display at our department headquarters at 909 Lake St.”

While the morning ceremony will take a backward look, honoring the sacrifice and suffering that characterized the horrific attacks, an afternoon event will be dedicated to creating a nonviolent future.

The year-old organization Peaceable Cities Evanston has completed plans for a walk designed to strengthen participants’ sense of community. The walk is one of the group’s first steps toward a goal of “creating a new ‘we’” in “an Evanston we can all belong to, contribute to and care about,” says Joey Rodger, PC’s acting executive director and co-founder. The “w” and “e” of “we,” she says, might be seen to refer to “woven Evanston.”

The walk will begin at the Dar-us-Sunnah Masjid, 2045 Brown Ave., and finish at the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation of Evanston, 303 Dodge Ave. Each participant will partner with a person he or she has never met, changing partners several times in the course of the 2.3-mile walk.

Walkers will be encouraged to “hear one another’s stories,” Ms. Rodger says. She adds that organizers have compiled a list of questions to help “build understanding so the hatred and isolation behind the [2001] event couldn’t possibly happen here.”

The walk/talk is in part a response to the community conversations PC convened last year. During sessions at the Evanston Public Library and Family Focus, Evanston residents expressed a desire for “more things to do together where we get to know each other,” says Ms. Rodger. Some 33 organizations, businesses and religious institutions are sponsoring the walk by posting signs and spreading the word.

Starting the walk at the masjid, the Muslim house of worship and community center, “just felt right,” Ms. Rodger says. The mosque is quite new to the “City of Churches,” says its president, Mohammed Saiduzzaman. The congregation chose Evanston as its home in part because many Muslims work or study here. For the numerous Muslim medical personnel at the City’s two hospitals and students and faculty at Northwestern University, he says, the closest sites for prayer services and religious classes were formerly Rogers Park and Morton Grove.

The mosque’s founders knew Evanston to be “very liberal, open-minded,” Mr. Saiduzzaman says, adding that the congregation has been warmly received. The newcomers have reciprocated. Ms. Rodger, who last year attended the inauguration of the masjid as a member of Evanston’s faith-based community, says, “I have never felt so gently encompassed or welcomed.”

Though work on the building is not finished, Mr. Saiduzzaman describes the setting and property as “perfect.” He appreciates having the “big artery of McCormick Boulevard at its doorstep,” he says, and Twiggs Park and the Ecology Center are across the street. He values, too, the nearby historic African American hospital that is now the Hill Arboretum apartments, a residence for people with disabilities. He deems as significant the building’s location near Bridge Street.

When Ms. Rodger and the Peaceable Cities steering committee contacted him with a “What if?” scenario for the walk, Mr. Saiduzzaman says, he was reminded of the “brown-bag syndrome.” People with brown bags over their heads, he says, “can’t see anyone. Ignorance is a barrier.”

The walk is a chance to remove the brown bags. “What better way to break misconceptions and to get to know each other? Then we won’t shut the door in each other’s face,” he says.

The JRC and its rabbi, Brant Rosen, say they are pleased to be on the walk route. Rabbi Rosen says, “I believe the best way to commemorate the [9/11] tragedy is to affirm the sacred values of community, tolerance, inclusion and brother- and sisterhood all our faiths share.” His congregation, he says, is “honored” to take part in an event he hopes “will be a coming together of community” and will “celebrate [the] religious diversity as well as commonality” that make Evanston “special.”

Trained docents will be offering walkers a tour of the synagogue building, which holds a rare platinum LEEDS rating for its green construction.

Remembering Sept. 11, 2001, and a world “shrill and shredded,” says Ms. Rodger, “people want to do something.”

She is convinced the walk is a step in the right direction.

From Mosque to Synagogue, Building A Path to Peace

Begin at Dar-us-Sunnah Masjid and Community Center, 2045 Brown Ave. Walk to Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation of Evanston, 303 Dodge Ave. How long? 2.3 miles

How much? The walk is free. A free-will offering will cover such expenses as City permits.

Welcome – Strollers, wheelchairs

Leave at home – Dogs, bicycles (“You can’t talk while riding,” says Joey Rodger); signs (“They identify but divide,” she says).

Wanted – Senior citizens who will be stationed at points along the route to remind walkers to change partners.

            – Drivers to supplement the seating capacity of two buses donated by Positive Connections, which will make three trips to return participants from the Levy Center parking lot at the end of the route to the starting point.

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...