Missourians mark Sept. 11 in various ways

Thursday, September 12, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- There were prayers and pledges, tears and determination as Missourians remembered the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks Wednesday.

They gathered by the hundreds at the state Capitol grounds, bowing their heads, then placing their hands over their hearts as they looked to the American flag.

Hundreds of others congregated at Kansas City's Liberty Memorial, St. Louis' Forest Park, Branson's Grand Palace theater, Columbia's courthouse square and the site of Neosho's large flag -- a 50-by-30 foot flag, flying halfway up a 120-foot pole at a busy intersection.

They gathered, too, in churches and schools and in small groups in numerous towns.

And they honored their heroes, dead and alive -- some in their midst, such as Steve Paulsell, chief of the Missouri Task Force 1 search and rescue team sent immediately to the site of the World Trade Center.

In the past year, "we have cried ... we have attempted to move on with our lives -- it has not been easy," Paulsell said at a Capitol ceremony that also honored firefighters and other emergency workers.

All of Missouri's elected officials took part, standing for the tolling of bells, a moment of silence, the presentation of the flags, the Pledge of Allegiance, prayer and patriotic song -- a pattern not uncommon to ceremonies across the state.

The Jefferson City ceremony concluded with two children releasing dozens of butterflies from a cardboard box -- a symbol of the attack victims and the nation's changes in the past year.

"We were tested by tragedy, and we triumphed," Gov. Bob Holden said. "Out of that struggle has come a heightened sense of patriotism and a stronger commitment to fight to protect the freedoms we enjoy."

While speakers pressed for justice in the war on terrorism, they also urged unity among Americans of all races and religions.

At an interfaith prayer service in St. Louis, Imam Waheed Rana, head of the St. Louis Islamic Foundation, decried "the heinous act of Sept. 11 last year." Then he added: "Let's make a pledge to do our utmost to pursue freedom and justice."

During the St. Louis service, retired principal Terry Proffitt stood behind his wife, his arms wrapped around her waist.

"Initially, there was anger directed at folks not guilty of anything," said Proffitt, 58, of the St. Louis suburb of Calverton Park. "But we are a fair people. I think we know who the real enemy is, and we managed to unite."

The Sept. 11 reverence across Knob Noster, Mo., was broken Wednesday by repeated roars from military aircraft overhead, reminders that this is the hometown of the B-2 Stealth bomber, leader of air retribution for terror attacks a year ago.

From the high school, where 70 percent of students are military dependents, to the community cemetery, with craggy retired veterans serving as color guards during a simple ceremony, Knob Noster remembered the innocent dead and prayed for enduring protection "from the weapons of hatred."

"This world seems more dangerous than a year ago," said Jennifer Fowler, 27, whose husband serves at sprawling Whiteman Air Force Base along the south side of town. Their 9-month-old daughter, Abigail, was born into the unsettled post-Sept. 11 world.

"It will be a dangerous world for her, too," Fowler said, "but we are still full of hope."

Patriotism is a year-round culture in this community adjoining Whiteman.

But "we're saluting just a bit more proudly as we remember," Bill Steinke, a retired Army paratrooper who serves on the Chamber of Commerce's military affairs committee, said in an interview.

Steinke presided at a ceremony during which flags were lowered to half-staff and a Whiteman honor guard fired a 21-gun salute.

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