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[Thu May 01 2003]

CARBONDALE -- Two speakers with different backgrounds, addressing a National Day of Prayer observance, cited the qualities that make America a great nation -- its diversity, its tolerance for others and its generosity of spirit.

Glenn Poshard, a vice chancellor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale who served five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, spoke about his experiences when he visited war-torn Kosovo with a Congressional delegation.

Bill Crawshaw, a Murphysboro funeral director and emergency services director in that city for 20 years, talked of both the horror and kindness he experienced when he was called to Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2001, as a member of a special team that deals with such catastrophes.

The two men spoke at a prayer breakfast sponsored by Southern Illinois Healthcare at its corporate office in University Mall, with about 50 people attending. The program also featured guests offering prayers from the world's religions -- Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Baha'i, Muslim and Hindu -- and music by Jeanine Wagner and Margaret Simmons of the SIUC School of Music.

Sister Clara Ternes welcomed the group and introduced the speakers.

Crawshaw pointed out a folded flag displayed near the lectern.

"It's a Ground Zero flag," he said, adding that it was given to him by rescue workers. For the first few days, there was an "overwhelming sense of evil and hatred" at Ground Zero, Crawshaw said, but that was soon replaced by an overwhelming gratitude for life itself.

As he worked, he said, "volunteers met our needs and extended their friendship. One church called and asked if they could bring a home-cooked meal to our hotel. Soon other churches began bringing meals and eating with us."
Prayer is important during disasters, Crawshaw said, "when people are hurt, confused and in need of love and caring." He said he and other members of the special team were greeted by "a community of believers who provided concern not just for victims and families, but also for the workers at the scene."

Poshard recalled attending a National Day of Prayer breakfast years ago in Washington and hearing "a little lady" speak words of wisdom.

"God comes to us in the most distressing disguises -- an abused child, a dying person on the streets of Calcutta," Mother Teresa told the group. "You're looking into the eyes of God" in those faces, Poshard said.

In Kosovo, Poshard said, he found a land where 400,000 casualties resulted from conflicts over religion and ethnicity. He said he'll never forget the words of an old man, with his face sunken with age and hunger, who fought his way through the crowds to speak to the Congressmen.

"We only trust America," the old man said.

"He knew the story of America that sometimes I took for granted," Poshard said, "that our diversity is our strength" because it gives us understanding of others and tolerance for those who are different. 618-529-5454 x15079

©Copyright 2003, The Southern Illionois (IL, USA)

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