Going about 'the business of healing'

Thursday, September 12, 2002

With hands folded together and heads bowed, people sat silently and somberly in the darkness inside St. Mary's Cathedral. Four candles shone at the altar, and an American flag stood illuminated in a corner of the church.

About 150 people, many of them wearing red, white and blue clothing, gathered on this Wednesday night in Cape Girardeau to remember the tragic events of one year ago, when terrorists hijacked planes and crashed them in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

A similar sized crowd gathered just 45 minutes earlier at the SEMO District Fair for the Heartland Remembers service. There, too, many dressed in patriotic colors or wore T-shirts emblazoned with "God Bless America" or "United We Stand."

Brenda Murphy of Cape Girardeau spent much of Wednesday listening to newscasts, as she did a year ago. She and her husband, Leon, attended the service at the fairgrounds.

"We don't want to forget, but maybe it shouldn't be so much in the news now so we can bring closure to it," she said.

Dustin Hoffman of Jackson said the attacks helped bring people together.

This year, he said, people are a lot nicer than they used to be.

"It brought us all together again," he said. "America is closer, like it used to be."

Some noted that patriotism abounds like it hasn't in this nation since World War II. An emotional part of the 22-minute community service included raising a giant flag and then lowering it to half-staff. Men took off their hats and clutched them to their hearts as the crowd rose to its feet to salute the flag.

Both services, and many more held earlier in the day, were devoted to remembrances of the year past with an eye on the future.

"We have all walked in the valley of the shadow of death and have a greater understanding of evil, but that has renewed our human spirit so we can go about the business of healing," said Gerald Jones, presiding county commissioner.

Jones, Jackson Mayor Paul Sander and Cape Girardeau Mayor Jay Knudtson were the featured speakers during the community-wide service at the fairgrounds that began immediately after the parade marshal entered the parkfollowing the SEMO District Fair parade.

What the nation must do now is persevere, Knudtson said. The attacks made the country united "and no gutless act of terrorism can take that away from us."

'Peace is possible'

With a soothing timbre in his voice, the Rev. John J. Leibrecht told the audience at the Cape Girardeau cathedral that the nation's future could hold a time peace.

"It won't be perfect peace, but peace is possible," said Leibrecht, bishop of the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Catholic Diocese.

Yet feelings of fear, grief, hurt, anger and sadness still grip the nation.

Words couldn't adequately express the feelings that surrounded the one-year anniversary of Sept. 11. Regardless of where they gathered, inside a church, at coffee shops or at the fairgrounds, people were still searching for words -- anything that would help them better understand.

A noon memorial service sponsored by the Downtown Council of Churches was written by area pastors and devoted to a time of remembering, healing and hope.

But the words recited by the 30 people in attendance don't do the day justice, said the Rev. Paul Kabo Jr. of First Presbyterian Church, where the service was held.

"This is beyond our normal coping mechanisms," Kabo said. "We're searching for our response, and that requires extra of us."

That extra comes in personal reflections and contemplation.

"There are no words to express how we are feeling," said the Rev. Dr. Jay White, pastor of First Baptist Church.

Some wished the words would vanish and silence prevail. "I wanted there to be more quiet and the world to stop, but it doesn't stop," said the Rev. Bob Towner, rector of Christ Episcopal Church.

A 7:30 a.m. service at Centenary United Methodist Church focused on prayer and silence. "I think it helps put it into perspective," said the Rev. Dr. Clayton Smith. "There is so much noise and commentary in dealing with this. We are just overwhelmed with the sights and sounds."

Speaking from Ecclesiastes 3, Smith reminded the audience that there is a time to speak and a time to listen.

"Pastors are expected to speak when no one else will, and there are times when we would do better to just listen."

At the noon service, a lone bell clanged after 40 victims' nameswere read from a list, each selected at random. During the vespers service at St. Mary's, 10 seconds of silence passed between each ringing of the bell.

But as the nation struggled to remember the victims of terrorism, people were seeking some hope, including some who attended lunchtime service at Fruitland Community Church.

"There are people dealing with their personal Ground Zero," said the Rev. Mike Parry.

ljohnston@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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