What was billed as a lighted representation of America's war dead in Iraq turned into an auditory display Monday evening, thanks to the supportive honking of passing cars on El Camino Real as demonstrators read the names of 423 soldiers from California who have died in the war.
The vigil took place at El Camino and Castro Street, starting at about 7 p.m. and ending shortly before 9 p.m.
Lack of a source of electricity kept the approximately 50 demonstrators from adding to the candlelight observance with 4,000 electric lights as they had planned. But demonstrators had many small lit candles in red plastic cups, and some carried signs reading, "End the debacle. Impeach," "Peace instead," and "Out now. Bring our troops home."
"When another soldier dies, a part of me dies," said Karen Meredith, a Mountain View resident and prominent member of Mountain View Voices for Peace. Her own son, Lt. Ken Ballard, died during a firefight in Iraq nearly four years ago.
"California has had its fair share of casualties," she said of the 426 dead. A small memorial to her son was placed nearby on a grassy area.
Paul George, director of the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center in Palo Alto, and his partner, psychologist Stephanie Reader, cited non-fatal casualty figures of about 30,000 wounded, about 3,000 of whom have severe brain injuries.
"We don't even begin to know the damage" to people's lives caused by the injuries and stress the soldiers have undergone, including damage to marriages and relationships due to post-traumatic stress disorder, Reader said.
The Rev. Archer Summers, senior pastor with the First United Methodist Church in Palo Alto, said he hopes that "in the days of Easter that we in fact will start anew."
He said many people are "clueless on what is going on in Iraq."
Participants in the vigil came from Mountain View, Los Altos, Sunnyvale and Palo Alto.
The names of three other war dead from California were not read because they haven't yet been added to the official list and were not available.