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Oklahomans mourn vicitms at prayer service

By Bobby Ross Jr.
Religion Editor

Oklahoma survived and overcame tragedy.

America can, too.

Thousands of Oklahomans delivered that message today as a sea of patriotism washed over the holy ground of the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

On a muggy, cloudy afternoon, a slight bleeze caressed the tears that flowed during an emotional prayer service mourning the thousands of victims of Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the East Coast.

"How fitting it is that we come to this place," Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys told a crowd speckled with star-spangled scarves, flag-covered T-shirts and red, white and blue ribbons.

The noon service opened with bells ringing at the nearby First United Methodist Church and a trumpet solo by David Hooten, who played the "Star-Spangled Banner."

Humphreys, Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin and Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Baha'i clergy representatives spoke from behind a lectern inside a wall that surrounds the Survivor Tree.

Deanna Acklin, wearing a white T-shirt and blue pants, wiped her eyes with a red bandanna as ministers prayed for hope and strength.

Acklin and her daughter Jaden, 3, stood near the memorial's reflecting pool by a stroller decorated with two U.S. flags.

"I haven't lost anyone personally. It's just overwhelming -- just everything that's gone on and not knowig what it will lead to," said Acklin, whose husband, Air Force 2nd Lt. Rodger Acklin is a AWACS pilot who has spent the last 2 1/2 months training in Florida.

Her husband is supposed to rejoin his family, which also includes 9-year-old Ashley, in the next few weeks.

But now that's not so certain. "We're hoping he'll get to come home," Deanna Acklin said.

A man who will soon begin Navy training stopped after the service and stared at the message scrawled on a wall of the bomb-damaged Journal Record Building.

The message says: "We search for the truth. We seek justice. The courts require it. The victims cry for it, and God demands it."

Steve Gallant already was supposed to have left for training, but the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon delayed his commercial flight.

But the catastrophe only deepened his resolve.

"It's just that much more convincing that this (military service) is a good decision to make," said Gallant, who is from Nashville, Tenn.

©Copyright The Daily Oklahoman

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