Gatherings Rally Support For Victims
The spontaneous grief and supplication that made up the nation's bitter spiritual fare in the days following those strikes on New York and Washington, D.C., are to be formalized as President Bush declared a national day of mourning and prayer.
Throughout the San Fernando Valley, religious leaders of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other faiths were preparing for special services, and for the challenges of the days ahead.
Planned were every variety of services, with organizers expecting to light candles, ring bells, sing songs, say prayers and celebrate other forms of liturgy in symbolic recognition of the world's pain, and the determination, hope and faith to triumph over it.
People of all faiths were lining up to donate blood, as well as donating funds to the relief effort, too, anything concrete to help the victims.
While public schools cannot hold prayer services, the Los Angeles Unified School District was encouraging a brief observance of the tragedy at noon. At Pacoima Middle School, for instance, a small choir of students will sing "One Small Flame" at 11 a.m.
Private schools and colleges were planning their own vigils.
At the University of California, Los Angeles, on Thursday, about 1,000 people were silent for a moment on the steps of Royce Hall. With tears flowing, hands clutched and heads bowed, they heard Chancellor Albert Carnesale decry the attacks "on all humanity."
"The time has come for us to come together to speak to one another, to hear one another, to teach one another and to learn from one another," he said.
The city of Los Angeles today will also hold a brief observation of the tragedy on the south steps of City Hall at noon, Acting Mayor Alex Padilla said.
With few churches, synagogues or mosques unaffected by the destruction of the Trade Center and a portion of the Pentagon by terrorists who slammed hijacked jetliners into them, local religious leaders said Thursday they were combining pastoral care with what spiritual solace they could give.
Many said there was a strong ecumenical mood, as the majority of the faithful put aside denominational, sectarian and ideological differences to stand together as Americans and "children of God."
"I think it's because we're seeing the big picture, that we're all God's children, that we share a common humanity," said the Rev. Robert McNamara, pastor at St. Bernardine of Siena Catholic Church in Woodland Hills, which is celebrating a 7 p.m. Mass.
McNamara said moments before he'd been counseling a pregnant woman whose husband had been in one of the hijacked planes and was carrying the ultrasound picture of their 11-week-old unborn baby.
"Now I've touched it," the priest said, his voice slightly shaking. "She was pregnant with their first child, and he's carrying the ultrasound. The whole thing exploded for me. She just left about 10 minutes ago."
Nothing he could say, McNamara said he realized, would be adequate, yet the woman seemed to draw on an inner strength and understanding that God's gift of freedom leaves room for people to do evil.
"I had nothing to say but to admire her," he said.
Rabbi Gershon Johnson of Beth Haverim in Agoura Hills said he will be officiating today at a memorial for MRV Communications Inc.'s chief financial officer, Edmund Glazer, 41, of Chatsworth.
"He's a dear friend of one of our members," Johnson said, adding his daughter was in New York and witnessed the trade center crumble, while a son is in Jerusalem.
Glazer was remembered in another way Thursday morning, as the compassion for him burst forth from the community in a simple act of love.
Sy Robins, 74, chief executive officer of Sensor Systems in Chatsworth, a manufacturer of airplane antennas and whose products were on all the planes that crashed Tuesday, stopped at Home Depot on his way to work and bought an American flag and flagpole.
When he got to work, he put up the flag, then put out a memo: Glazer, and all the other victims of the attack, would be honored in front of the flag.
At noon, he was joined by 300 people.
"We were just saying a little prayer for this guy next door, because what happened was wrong," Robins said, amid the tears and the hands held tight.
During a Wednesday night service at the temple, Johnson said, people simply held one another arm-in-arm, and told of the stories contained in e-mails they'd received from loved ones, telling the stories of pain and grief.
"It was very cathartic," Johnson said. "There was support. You could feel the resolve not to be afraid, that America will be strengthened by this tragedy, not weakened."
The temple will hold a 8:15 p.m. service tonight.
In mosques throughout the Valley and city, Muslims prayed for the victims of the terrorist attacks, including loved ones and friends with loved ones who were killed or injured.
Hala Karam, a Muslim on the board of directors of the San Fernando Valley Interfaith Council, said speakers during a prayer service at the Islamic Center of Southern California in Los Angeles told of friends whose children had died in the Trade Center.
"There are many Muslims, Arabs in New York," Karam said. "Everyone is affected directly and indirectly in every way."
Muslims have the added burden of having heard supporters of theterrorists invoking the name of Allah in committing the crimes, and fearing reprisals.
"Basically, the Christians, Jewish people, the Muslims have the same message," Karam said. "We're all one brotherhood, one humanity. Let our faith keep us strong; pray for some kind of peace from this situations; move forward, everyone standing together. It's the same message."
Muslims have been urged to focus their traditional Friday prayers on the tragedy, holding up the victims of the destruction.
Mohammad Chaudhry, president of Islamic Center Northridge in Granada Hills, said there is an enclave of Christian, Jewish and Muslim schools and institutions in the area. During the shootings at the Jewish Community Center in 1999, Muslims helped the center out, he said.
"The last few days, Jewish and Christian school people have come over every day. We have such a good relationship in Granada Hills," Chaudhry said. "Any means we can say something to comfort not only Muslims, but the most important thing people who are in agony."
Prayers will be said at 1 p.m. at the Granada Hills mosque, and at 1:30 p.m. at the Tampa mosque.
The San Fernando Valley Interfaith Council, which represents more than 400 congregations, including Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Bahai and others, issued a statement Wednesday calling upon "all people of good will to come together in this time of tragedy, to oppose all hateful speech and violent actions, and to refrain from demonizing any group of people or religion."
Bob Bock, pastor of First Christian Church of North Hollywood, which will open its sanctuary today between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. for prayers and reflections, said the sole member of his church who worked in one of the World Trade Center towers was in Atlanta at the time of the attack. He said about 300 people attended a Wednesday night ecumenical service at the church, where Psalms were read from the Old Testament and voices were lifted to the refrain, "you'll never walk alone."
"It was a relief to be together," Bock said.
In Granada Hills, the Church of St. Andrew and St. Charles and Temple Beth Torah have planned a 7 p.m. interfaith service. The readings will be from Isaiah, even as the structure of the liturgy will be Anglican. Both faiths have made concessions they would not have made if the services were their own.
But at this time - when a nephew of a church parishioner was killed fighting the fires in the Trade Center - there is something higher to be achieved, said the Rev. Greg Frost, pastor of St. Andrew and St. Charles.
"We are Americans, and we are more than Americans. We are all children of God," Frost said.
Staff Writer Gregory J. Wilcox contributed to this story.
©Copyright 2001, Los Angeles Daily News