- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 16, 2001

The messages scrawled across the Bethesda Unity Wall echo the themes set forth Friday by President Bush during the national day of prayer and remembrance ceremonies nationwide: Hope. Fortitude. Remembrance for lives lost.
The wall, an impromptu memorial erected Friday in the city's downtown district, also reflects the fear many feel in the wake of Tuesday's terrorist attacks against the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.
Nuray Anahtarco of Bethesda, one of many who have gathered at the wall, came to the United States 15 years ago from Turkey in search of tranquility.
"We were running away from terrorists. We came here to find a safe haven," said Mrs. Anahtarco, her face a portrait of disillusionment. "But I believe we'll cope with this."
The Bethesda Unity Wall, standing in the Bethesda Place courtyard along Woodmont Avenue, gives residents a chance to vent some fermenting emotions.
The wall is sponsored by the Bethesda Urban Partnership, McDonald's and the Montgomery County Police. Two enormous flags flank the wall, a makeshift plywood structure of modest height cobbled together on short notice.
In a little over an hour, the bulk of the white wall was filled with prayers and good wishes. Visitors had to stoop to find enough room to write their messages in careful print.
Messages ranged from bursts of prayer-like prose ("God bless us all") to cries for peace ("In memory of Dr. King, non-violence, not war").
Others find poetry in their sentiments: "May the wings of liberty never lose a feather."
Nearly every message begins or ends with "God bless."
A melting pot of passers-by gathered in the courtyard Friday. Some arrived alone, others came clutching the hands of loved ones. They either cautiously approached the wall with red or blue markers in hand, or dug into their purses and wallets to make a donation to the Red Cross.
The comments rarely mentioned retribution, or even anger, toward those who carried out Tuesday's suicide hijackings. They held steadfast that the nation's unity would hold true in the coming weeks and months.
Bethesda resident Judy Merritt said her anger hadn't subsided in the days since the attacks.
"We're not going to get an overnight solution. This didn't happen overnight," Miss Merritt said.
Montgomery County Police Cmdr. Luther T. Reynolds said the wall will help Bethesda residents deal with their roiling emotions.
"They're never going to be forgotten," Cmdr. Reynolds said of those who were killed in the attacks.
When he arrived at the makeshift memorial, he said he "said a prayer for anybody of any faith."
"We're all brothers and sisters . Everybody here has something in common," he said.
Crystal Washington of Mitchellville said the crisis "has really brought the country together."
She then paused and wiped her cheek with her hand. "This is the first time I've cried about this," Miss Washington said.
Not every visitor to the wall had local roots.
London resident Roger Sabin, whose stay in the United States was extended by the flight restrictions, stood several paces back from the others, quietly observing the steady flow of writers.
Mr. Sabin said he has lived through numerous terrorist attacks back home perpetrated by the Irish Republican Army.
"This is something so completely beyond what we've experienced in London," he said. "It's a feeling that you're entering a new historical era in terms of attacks."
Bethesda resident Doug Massey, whose 2-year-old son, Jacob, waved a tiny American flag in a pudgy fist, said he assumed he would never see another large-scale war in his lifetime.
"We're probably going to have some bad times ahead," Mr. Massey said, while Jacob made fast friends with some of those gathered near the wall.
Stephanie Coppula, the partnership's director of communications, said her group may add two more panels to give residents additional room for their messages. The partnership estimated that about 40,000 people work around downtown Bethesda.
Among the writings on the wall are the scrawled images of a cross, the American flag and the Red Cross logo. Written underneath is "symbols of courage, symbols of strength, symbols of hope."
But one message best summed up the memorial's tone.
"We are and have always been a country of love, unity and tolerance. Even now in our darkest hour, let's not forget that," it reads.

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