An Atlanta grandmother and a Georgia shelter worker are walking across America in a pace for peace.
For Ann Fitz and Joe Cohen, the hike is more practical than quixotic.Fitz, 56, and Cohen, 39, left King's Bay, Ga., on March 1, headed for Bangor, Wash., hoping to enlighten citizens along their path about the danger the Trident II missile program poses.
"If it is chasing after windmills, I can think of worse things to chase," Fitz said of the walk and the message she and Cohen carry.
"We never know the full effect of our efforts," Cohen said. "We just basically go on faith."
The pair are in Salt Lake City this week for a planned silent vigil at Hercules' Bacchus Works in Magna, where motors for the first-strike nuclear weapons are made.
Cohen said faith induced the pair tostart the 3,000-mile journey, "to speak out against these weapons,which rob billions and billions of dollars from human needs and services and threaten the entire planet."
The Trident II, which can hit its target within seven minutes of launch, carries eight nuclear warheads with a destructive force equal to 304 Hiroshimas, peace advocates say.
"In order to be faithful to commitments of life and nonviolence, Christians feel the need to speak out against" the Trident program, Cohen said. "Otherwise, basically our silence would support it."
The protest Friday afternoon at the main gates of Hercules is the latest in a monthly series of silent vigils that began in December 1983 to protest the missile program, said organizer Diana Hirschi.
"We vigil every third Friday no matter what," she said. "Rain, shine, snow, holidays, no, someone is always out there."
A spokesman for Hercules, Jack DeMann, said that the vigils have "become almost a ritual" and that employees passing through the main gate often return the protesters' waves.
DeMann said the group has never caused any problems and that the company believes they are entitled to express their opinions on public property. The protests actually take place on the U-111 right-of-way, he said.
The Agape Community of Salt Lake, which organized the protest along with the Utah Peace Test, is the local arm of a national organization that protests and monitors the manufacture and shipment of nuclear missiles.
The peace movement is growing in the United States, the walkers and Hirschi said, because people are discovering events in their lives that make staying around without a nuclear cloud more important.
For Fitz, who describes herself as "pretty ordinary," it was the birth of her two grandchildren that dramatically changed her view and motivated her to hit the road in the four-month hike.
"I've got to do something," said Fitz, who gave up her job at an Atlanta food bank to make the trek. "These are my grandchildren."
People along the route have helped support the walkers with food and shelter and urged them on in their quest to inform Americans about nuclear weapons.
"We've had a lot of good support across the country," Cohen said. "If only a few folks listen to our message, we'll be satisfied."
The route the hikers are taking up to Washington follows the path that the missile motors travel for deployment on nuclear-ready submarines.