Three San Diego County women will fly to Washington on Friday to join thousands of other peace-loving Americans who will encircle the Pentagon, the Lincoln Memorial and part of the Capitol in a 13-mile embrace--and a plea for an end to war.
Elizabeth Fairchild, Ann Wiersema and Laura Freeman were sharing a Sunday morning cup of coffee two weeks ago when they decided to join the Ribbon, a national project to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.
“The three of us were talking about how often people believe in things and don’t do anything,” Fairchild said.
“To me, it just seems so right. The whole expression is right, because it’s grass roots,” said Freeman.
So the three women bought laundry markers and material and passed around strips of the material for their friends to sign. And their friends passed them along to others. About 900 people have signed the three panels and $1,050 has been collected for plane fares, said Fairchild, who works for the City of Carlsbad’s public relations department.
“We’ve had tremendous response. It kind of has a life of its own,” Fairchild, a Leucadia resident, said.
The Ribbon is the brainchild of Justine Merritt, a Denver woman who traveled to Japan in 1975. In 1982, she decided she had to work for peace, and she chose a peace ribbon as an expression of her feeling.
An estimated 24,000 banners are already on hand in Washington and more are pouring in every day, said Audrey Keller, California state coordinator of the Ribbon. “It’s a wonderful way for average people, who are not militaristic, who are not confrontational, who do not like to demonstrate, to express their feelings,” Keller said.
The 3-foot by 1 1/2-foot banners represent things people would hate to lose in a nuclear war. Some are made of baby blankets, others carry messages, such as one by a construction worker that reads: “I’m for construction, not destruction.” Many of the banners were made by children.
Fairchild said they decided to gather signatures because they had so little time before the Sunday ceremony. Also, by charging $1 per signature, money was raised for plane fare, she said.
All three women said the ribbon represents their first involvement in the peace movement, but not their last. They plan to bring one of the banners back to San Diego to hold while they participate in the first Mothers Embracing Nuclear Disarmament (MEND) Walk for Peace on Tuesday.
“It’s like this is my way to gain entry into the peace movement . . . . Now through this I’ve found out about other groups,” said Freeman, who lives in Encinitas and works as a community health nurse.
The three will catch a red-eye special to Washington on Friday. On Saturday they will attend an interfaith service at Washington Cathedral. The banners will be unfurled Sunday and sometime that afternoon the three ribbon circles will be linked.
“It gives me the shivers just thinking about it,” Fairchild said.
Sherry Regnery, North County regional president of Beyond War, an organization that she said believes war is obsolete, said she was very excited about the peace ribbon.
“I think what this has done is touched a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t get involved in the issue of war and peace and nuclear disarmament,” she said. Many people tend to shut out the idea of a possible nuclear war because it is so horrible, rather than trying to figure out how they can prevent one, she said.
Wiersema, a free-lance photographer in Oceanside, said contributing to the Ribbon appealed to her because it seemed a peaceful gesture. “It started as a pipe dream. Peace marches sometimes have a confrontational flavor. This seemed like a real positive statement,” she said.
Vista resident Martha Thompson, whose son is married to Ribbon originator Justine Merritt, recalled that in 1982 Merritt was worried that she would never have enough ribbon to even encircle the Pentagon once. “I don’t think there is a state in the Union that hasn’t participated,” Thompson said.
Fairchild said that, for her, the Ribbon is a gesture outside political statements.
“I don’t pretend to understand all political solutions or all the ramifications,” she said. “I do think what people believe in can come true. If you believe in war, we might have one. If you believe in no wars, we won’t.”