In a brief but solemn ceremony on the grounds of Georgetown University yesterday, about 200 people marked the beginnig of the 11th month of captivity for the American hostages in Iran.
It was a simple commemoration -- no American flags, no redition of the "Star Spangled Banner," no government officials in attendance.
Instead, the gathering of hostage families, Georgetown students and assorted spectators heard hymns from a gosepl choir and brief remarks from retired federal Judge John J. Sirica.
Looking tanned and rested in one of his few public appearances since a near-fatal heart attack in 1976, Sirica repeated the theme voiced by all the speakers beneath a "Free the Hostages, Unite the Families" banner. "There are more than 52 people being held hostage," Sirica said, "There are 52 families."
"The division of a family by whatever means -- be it by lack of love or the bars of a prison -- damages that family and damages the children most of all," the judge told the quiet gathering.
The ceremony was sponsored by the Georgetown University student government, and by No Greater Love, a nonprofit organization originally formed in 1971 to assist the families of American Prisioners of War in Vietnam. The group announced yesterday plan to distribute thousands of small gold "Free The Hostages" lapel pins across the nation as a "visible, nonpolitical reminder" of the American hostages and their families.
Attached to the gold pin is a yellow ribbon a symbol used since the American Civil War by families waiting for loved ones to return from the battlefield, according to organizers.
Marge German, wife of hostage Bruce German, told the group, "To me, those of you who wear this little pin are saying that you care. It is so gratifying to know that you are not alone."
German and her son, Chris were among 20 family members present at the ceremony, representing the families of 11 Americans held in captivity since the U.S. emgassy in Tehran was overtaken by militant students on Nov. 4, 1979, 306 days ago.
German, the only one of the hostage family members to address the assembly, said "Everyone in the foreign service is supposed to be prepared for the eventuality that somewhere, something could happen. But you never believe it could happen to you."
Student government President David Goldwyn told the crowd, "We're not here to debate the United States foreign policy towards Iran. "We're not here to debate Iran's grieveances towards the United States. We're not here to debate Democratic, Republican or independent approaches to resolving the crisis."
By "not throwing rocks or bottles or screaming, 'Down with the Shah, . . .
we're showing we still believe that peace and compassion are more effective weapons than hate and invectives."