Memorials held in CA

Santa Monica clergy held a memorial services Saturday and Wednesday for the 10 people killed and dozens injured by a car that plowed through a crowded farmer's market.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | SANTA MONICA, Calif. | July 23, 2003



"You know, a lot of people look to blame things, but there was no sense of that in this service."

—Brian West


Santa Monica clergy held memorial services Saturday and Wednesday for the 10 people killed and dozens injured by a car that plowed through a crowded farmer's market last week.

Wednesday's service began at 1 p.m. at the site of the accident, attracting hundreds of mourners, said the Rev. Janet Bregar, the executive director of the the Santa Monica Bay Interfaith Council and an organizer of the event. The Saturday morning service, she said, probably brought together more than a thousand people.

Wednesday's service was "an opporunity for all the interfaith leaders to share all their thoughts and feelings," she said. "Because it's such a multicultural and multi-faith community we try to represent as many people as possible.

Christian, Buddhist, Bahai, Muslim, Jewish and other religious leaders took turns at the podium. The service concluded with a moment of silence at 1:47 p.m., to mark the moment of the crash which occurred exactly a week earlier.

Saturday's service began at St. Augustine's By-the-Bay Episcopal Church, and proceeded after a short meeting to the farmer's market. The initial service lasted about five minutes, and consisted of simple prayers and song. The 60 to 70 people who attended this service then lit candles and proceeded to the corner of Third Street and Arizona Avenue, the site of the accident. Hundreds more joined the processional, until more than a thousand were gathered in the farmer's market, which reopened for business that Saturday.

"That was kind of a community healing," Bregar said. "It was really the first time the community was coming together."

The places on the street where the ten people were killed were also purified with incense and holy water during that ceremony, she said.

The names of the slain were also read, with the tolling of a ceremonial bell after the reading of each name.

The chief of the Santa Monica police department as well as the local fire chief were also commended for the quick work of their employees, said Capt. Brian West, a Salvation Army chaplain who attended the event.

West said that the man responsible for the accident, 86-year-old Russell Weller, was also the object of prayer.

"No one was really blaming him," West said. "It was a tragic event, so we were also praying for him. You know, a lot of people look to blame things, but there was no sense of that in this service. It was a process of healing, even for the driver."

Weller released a public statement Sunday that read, in part, "My heart is broken over the extent of the tragedy."

Wednesday's service is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., said Wood, and a moment of silence is to be held at 1:47 p.m.-exactly a week after the fatal crash occurred.


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