Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Looking at empty Boots

Combat boots, Iraqi shoes form an emotional exhibit

Pat Whitney
Courier Staff Writer

Hanover College custodian Anna Denton looked through lines of combat boots at the Eyes Wide Open exhibit on display at the college this week.

“My friend’s son’s boots are here somewhere,” she said, checking the tags tied to boot strings.

It was a sad and anxious search, she added, not only because her friend lost her son, but also because Denton’s son is in Iraq.

The exhibit is part of a larger national exhibit that has been touring cities throughout the country. Locally, 300 pairs of empty boots and Iraqi civilian shoes will challenge students and others within the community who visit the exhibit to take a closer look at the human cost of war.

At the Hanover College exhibit, combat boots represent National Guard soldiers who have fallen in the Iraq War. Dozens of civilian shoes, also part of the exhibit, memorialize Iraqi civilian casualties.

“The exhibit displays the pain caused by war in a very special way,” said freshman Emily Leatherbury, a member of People for Peace who brought the exhibit to Hanover College after being moved by the exhibit when it was in Louisville.

Leatherbury pointed out that many students, including herself, have not experienced war or its pain.

“The Open exhibit brings the pain of war down to a level we can all understand,” she said. “The exhibit makes the death of the soldiers and civilians more personal, because their shoes are something they wear every day. To see the shoes stand without the person makes a powerful statement about what war does to people.”

The exhibit can be viewed at Lynn Hall from 3-7 p.m. today and from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The local Eyes Wide Open exhibit coincides with an exhibit at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., where the balance of the 3,000 boots and shoes that make up the national exhibit are on display.

The Washington exhibit will also feature the unveiling of a new memorial creating a space to reflect the overwhelming enormity of the loss of Iraqi lives. Through words and pictures, visitors to the Washington exhibit will be asked to imagine what life would be like if this war were happening on U.S. soil.

At today’s Eyes Wide Open Advocacy Day celebration in Washington, the American Friends Service Committee and Friends Committee on National Legislation will be sponsoring training and encouraging people to share their experiences with the human cost of war with their Congressional representatives.

“I do not think it (the exhibit) will necessarily change local opinion on the war,” Leatherbury said. “But I do believe it will force people to recognize the tragedy so many have encountered because of the war in Iraq and war itself. I think after seeing the exhibit, people will look on war with more of an understanding and nearness — rather than feeling separated or disconnected.”

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