A standing-room-only crowd packed the Washington Cathedral yesterday for a religious service honoring "The Ribbon," a collection of about 25,000 banners that will be tied together and wrapped around the Pentagon, Capitol and the Ellipse today in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Peace demonstrators, at least as many people as there are banners, are due to arrive in the District in time for the ribbon tying, which is scheduled to take place about 2 p.m.
Many of those people who created banners and who will carry one in today's demonstration were at the cathedral yesterday. About 2,500 of the banners were on display, tied around the interior pillars and draped over the pews.
"Mine has everything from the California coast. It has flowers, mountains, ocean and trees," said Diana Rimer of Santa Rosa, Calif. "I'm real positive and excited about it. I've never done any peace work before -- this is totally nonviolent, and we feel that this is a very positive way to say that we're concerned."
Rimer came to the District with her grandmother, Alice Coleman of Denver, who said that she worked for the U.S. Geological Survey before her retirement.
"I saw enough uranium to know I want peace," said Coleman. "I have a husband in Arlington Cemetery, and that's enough to make you want to work for peace, too."
Coleman said that her husband died shortly after World War II as a result of a war-related illness. She said the banner she created depicts a picnic scene, with an old-fashioned, checkered tablecloth, a picnic spread and even a few ants.
"I thought of picnics as family, fun and enjoyment of the environment," she said. "I thought that even in this you needed a little humor to brighten things up ."
The ribbon panels are meant to show what the people who made them felt they could not bear to see lost in a nuclear war.
"My panel depicts my two children, and their children and their children, and so on," said Florence Kissane of Hampton Bays, N.Y., a registered nurse who is an area coordinator for The Ribbon project.
"I feel I can make a statement," said Kissane, who came with a group of friends. "I want the world saved for my children, and I want my children saved for the world."
"This is really my first experience with peace activities," said Sue Caplan, a Detroit woman who drove here with her husband and 1-year-old son. She said she got involved in the project "because I had a child and I realized that it's important for him to grow up in a world that's peaceful."
Gerald Egan, 56, of Evanston, Ill., spent 18 hours on a bus with a group from Chicago to come and carry a panel in today's demonstration.
"I wanted to be sure as far as I could be that there was a very large turnout and that it wasn't all young" people, said Egan, who teaches psychology at North Park College in Chicago.
"We wanted to make a statement that it's really a cross section of the country that's passionately interested in this and frightened," said Egan, who became involved in the project just two weeks ago.
About 200 selected panels from around the country will be exhibited in the Chicago Peace Museum after today's ribbon tying.