At 5:30 Tuesday, Iowa City peace activists began drawing chalk outlines on the downtown Ped Mall, with each drawing representing one of the American troops
killed to date in the Iraq war in the Silhouette Project.
I half expected volunteers to be on the ground representing each soldier killed, but a cardboard template was more practical.
The completed sections were reminiscent of the late Keith Haring's outline outwork from the 1980's.
Nyssa Koons, one of the organizers, numbered the completed silhouettes. Volunteers estimated about 500 silhouettes had been drawn by 6:45, but had no idea how long it would complete the more than 3300 silhouettes. Number One was close to the water fountain at the center of the Ped Mall.
When asked why the silhouettes were numbered rather than bearing names, Koons said it was out of respect for those killed: "We didn't want people walking on names." With that thought in my mind I found myself stepping around outlines in an elaborate game of Step On A Crack Break Your Mother's Back.
Needless to say the 15 or so volunteers (working in shifts with more expected) attracted some attention, and of course one of the big functions was for organizers to explain the project to onlookers. Most reactions were supportive and I observed no negativity toward the event.
By 7:15 the outlines stretched nearly a block to the east, passing the children's room of the public library and approaching the intersection of College and Linn at the east end of the Ped Mall. The organizers expected to fill the entire Ped Mall and several surrounding blocks.