Wise stresses courage
Religious leaders address crowd gathered at Capitol
Daily Mail Capitol reporter
Wednesday September 11, 2002; 10:30 AM
The “Patriotic Ceremony of Prayer and Remembrance” at the state Capitol today lived up to every word of its title in marking the anniversary of last year’s terrorist attacks against New York and Washington.
The carefully crafted program wove together prayer, pageantry, patriotism, music and reverence.
“We gather as a united people, determined that terrorism shall be vanquished wherever it lives,” said Gov. Bob Wise. “We gather as a union of spirit, calling out to our common God that directs us all in recognizing more than ever our need for his love and guidance.”
The ceremony gave an audience of about 1,000 people a sense in real time how events unfolded one year ago, as Wise asked for moments of silence at 8:46, 9:03 and 9:43 a.m. to mark the times one year ago when hijacked commercial airliners struck first the North Tower of the World Trade Center, then the South Tower and then the Pentagon.
At 10 a.m., he called for a final moment of silence in honor of those who died in a fourth plane crash in Somerset County, Pa., although the actual time of that crash was 10:06.
The program, which was tightly timed to hit those time posts, ran slightly ahead of schedule for the first half-hour, then fell behind by several minutes in the middle, but was adjusted by shortening music selections to get back on schedule. Throughout much of the ceremony dark clouds to the west and a brisk wind that occasionally whipped up seemed to threaten rain, but blue skies and sunshine emerged just in time for the end of the ceremony, as if they had also been scripted.
In one unscripted event early in the ceremony, a trombonist in the 249th Army Band fEll backwards off of the platform the band was sitting on. He was able to walk away, escorted by a colleague, but did not return for the rest of the program.
The raising of a 50-foot American flag behind the speakers’ platform, as crowd members sang “God Bless the USA” and waved their own flags, and a flyover by two Air National Guard planes brought the ceremony to a stirring conclusion steeped in patriotic fervor. But prayers and inspirational readings by representatives of many faiths were also integral parts of the program.
Among the prayers were a few from the Quran, recited in both Arabic and English by Imam Mohammad Jamal Daoudi of the Islamic Association of West Virginia, including: “O you who believe! Enter in the full submission to God the peace wholeheartedly and follow not the footsteps of the evil one. For he is to you an avowed enemy.”
The Rev. Esber Tweel of the Church of the Good Shepherd asked people to hold hands and look into the eyes of their neighbors as he prayed. “We have been strangers long enough in this world,” he said.
Roman Catholic Bishop Bernard Schmitt said, “We must never forget the terrible loss of life and heroic efforts we witnessed that fateful day, and we must build on the marvelous expressions of faith and compassion that occurred in the aftermath of 9-11.”
Others who gave prayers included Sharon Smith Banks of the Kanawha Valley Interfaith Council and Rabbi Helen Bar-Yaacov of Temple Israel. The program also included readings from Mary Virginia DeRoo of the West Virginia Council of Churches, Dr. Lloyd Hamblin of the West Virginia Baptist Convention, the Rev. Alton Dillard of Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Dr. T.V. Ramakrishna of the Hindu Vedanta Society and Lynda Reed of the Baha’i Faith, as well as a Native American offering from Aztec flutist Rick Rivard, drummer Darla Spencer and reader Suzanne Tewawina of the Navajo Nation.
A key portion of the program was a tribute to emergency service workers, firefighters, law enforcement officers and active military personnel as representatives of each group walked solemnly, accompanied by drum rolls, to the bell from the battleship USS West Virginia and rang it a total of four times. Following that, representatives of veterans silently laid wreaths at the base of the bell.
During that part of the program, a blonde girl in pigtails from the Appalachian Children’s Chorus was overcome with emotion. Adults led her away from the stage to comfort her.
In his remarks, Wise paid tribute to each of the West Virginians who died as a result of the acts of terrorism last Sept. 11 and gave a special tribute and moment of silence to the two West Virginians who lost their lives in Afghanistan since then: Army National Guard Sgt. Gene Vance and Air Force Staff Sgt. Anissa Shero. Vance’s widow and her mother and Shero’s father joined him on stage.
“Both soldiers were heroes,” Wise said. “These brave West Virginians never questioned when they were called, never hesitated. They responded immediately and they performed their duties devotedly.”
Unlike inaugurations that have been held on the north side of the Capitol, the stage for today’s ceremony was set up in the middle of the campus, facing the Capitol instead of on its steps. Many state workers were allowed to attend without taking annual leave time, but state offices were supposed to remain open.
Writer Jim Wallace can be reached at 348-4819.
©Copyright 2002, Charleston Daily Mail (SC)