Standing with Cindy

Candle wax dripped on the sidewalk of Julie Morrison and Chris Wedge, in the grass and on the front porch of their South Reno home. I relit my red candle for the sixth time and cupped my hands around the flame.

“I don’t think it’ll stay lit,” I said.

“It will,” someone replied. “It’s the spirit of the event—the spirit that’s going to win.”

Around 40 people attended a Wednesday night vigil last week in the South Meadows to show support for Cindy Sheehan. The event was one of several held in Reno—more than 100 people gathered in downtown Reno—and 1,600-plus vigils across the nation.

Sheehan is the Vacaville, Calif., mom whose 24-year-old son died in Iraq. She’s been camping near President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he’s on vacation. Sheehan has a simple question for Bush: For what noble cause did her son die?

“Cindy Sheehan has given the progressive movement a voice that’s unbashable,” said Morrison, a Reno mother of two. “The right doesn’t have a way to say that she’s unpatriotic.”

Morrison thinks it’s time for Bush to face his critics.

“Bush had a stellar opportunity to meet her,” Morrison said. “He colossally blew that.”

Morrison’s daughters, ages 5 and 7, danced around a tree while Morrison talked with Ann McLaughlin, a school district aide and mother of three. McLaughlin had sped to the vigil after dropping her 12-year-old son, Buckley, off at football practice.

“I really feel for this woman who lost her son,” McLaughlin said. “Hopefully, Bush will, someday, care. What will make him care? … Is he a leader of the people? Aren’t you supposed to listen to the people?”

“Bush,” said Morrison, “lives in an opaque bubble.”

The president surrounds himself with supporters, she noted, speaking only to groups of pre-screened citizens who ask pre-approved questions.

Morrison likened Sheehan to Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man in the 1960s.

“When you see and hear Cindy, it’s raw emotion,” Morrison said. “[Like Parks], she’s saying, ‘I’ve had enough, and I’m not going until I get an answer from this person.’ “

Maureen Fager, a Reno warehouse worker, sat in the center of Morrison’s yard. Fager, her leg in a cast, quietly held a candle and a homemade poster with crosses and the names of Nevada’s war dead.

Fager hasn’t been to anti-war protests since the war started. And now, she’s recovering from a recent injury. Yet the Sheehan story moved Fager, a Vacaville native, to take some action.

“One of the things that’s powerful in Cindy’s message is that she calls all the soldiers fighting the war ‘our children,’ “ Fager said. “The names on this poster represent someone’s children.”

Reports list 21 soldiers with ties to Nevada who’ve died in the War on Terror.

Anthony Cometa, a 21-year-old from Las Vegas who joined the National Guard to earn money for college, was killed in Iraq in June. His father, Joe Cometa, told reporters that he questions when the war will end.

“It’s got to stop,” Cometa said in a Las Vegas Review-Journal interview. “I sound bitter because I lost my kid, but bring these kids home. … I don’t want other families going through this.”

At the vigil, we spoke of dwindling public support for war. We struggled to keep our flames aglow.

“At one point, we almost lit the porch on fire,” said Mary Anne Souza-Galperin, a Reno Democrat. “We put out the candles but Chris [Wedge] said, ‘Light ’em back up.’ “

She paused, looking toward the Virginia City foothills. “Is that a full moon?”

Heads turned to observe the waxing moon emerging from a break in the clouds.