Ceremony spreads message of survival

September 15, 2001 | Oklahoman, The (Oklahoma City, OK)

Author/Byline: Bobby Ross Jr.; Religion Editor | Page: 1-A | Section: NEWS 816 Words

Oklahoma survived and overcame tragedy.

America can, too.

Thousands of Oklahomans delivered that message Friday as a sea of patriotism washed over the grounds of the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

On a muggy, cloudy afternoon, a slight breeze caressed the tears that flowed during an emotional prayer service mourning the thousands of victims of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks.

“We come together today for a time of prayer and reflection and expression of our deep sympathy for our friends in New York and Washington and across the country,” Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys told a crowd speckled with star-spangled scarves, flag-covered T-shirts and red, white and blue ribbons.

“How fitting it is that we come to this place where 6 1/2 years ago, an act of terrorism sought to instill fear into our hearts but instead showed Oklahoma City at its finest and America at its finest.”

The noon service – one of many on a Friday proclaimed the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance by President Bush – opened with bells ringing and a trumpet solo by David Hooten, who played the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Humphreys, Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin and ministers representing a variety of faiths gathered near the Survivor Tree, an American elm that survived the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

One by one, the clergy leaders offered words of encouragement and hope – for folks close to home and those dealing with heartache a thousand miles away.

“I wish everybody knew God,” said pastor Marty Grubbs of Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City.

“I wish God would make only good things happen… but that’s not the way He does it. God is available to all of us. He longs for us as children to turn to Him in times of great need.”

Deana Acklin, who wore 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.

Two U.S. flags decorated the red-headed toddler’s stroller.

“I haven’t lost anyone personally,” Acklin said. “It’s just overwhelming – just everything that’s gone on and not knowing what it will lead to.”

Her husband, Air Force 2nd Lt. Rodger Acklin, is an AWACS pilot.

He has spent 2 1/2 months training in Florida and 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,” Deana Acklin said.

Many in the crowd joined Mark Taylor in an emotional a cappella rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

They also sang “God Bless America,” led by state Rep. John Nance, R-Bethany.

Participants in the observance included the Rev. James A. Goin of Corpus Christi Catholic Church, Rabbi David Packman of Temple B’Nai Israel, pastor Dennis Newkirk of Henderson Hills Baptist Church, imam Suhaib Webb of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, Dr. George Cooper of the Baha’i Center and pastor emeritus H.E. Walker of True Vine Independent Baptist Church.

After the service, a man who soon will begin Navy training stopped 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 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon delayed his commercial flight.

The unexpected violence only deepened his resolve.

“It’s just that much more convincing that this is a good decision to make,” said Gallant, who is from Nashville, Tenn.

A sign next to the Survivor Tree declared Oklahoma’s support for New York and Washington.

“You stood with us in our darkest hour,” the sign stated. “Now, we stand with you.”Caption: Photo 1: Congregation member Linda Palmer bows her head in prayerful thought Friday during a noon prayer service at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Edmond – STAFF PHOTO BY ROGER KLOCK Photo 2: Leonard and Dawn Scott salute the flag during a ceremony at the Survivor Tree in downtown Oklahoma City for the victim’s of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks. – STAFF PHOTO BY BRYAN TERRY Photo 3 (Page 9-A) A time to kneel: Jeremiah Watts of Oklahoma City kneels in prayer near the end of a noon prayer service Friday at the Oklahoma City National Memorial. – STAFF PHOTO BY JIM BECKEL Photo 4 (Page 8-A) Solemn moments: Elmer Cochran of Midwest City prays during a service Friday at Del City Church of Christ. President Bush proclaimed Friday as a national day of prayer and remembrance. – STAFF PHOTO BY DAVID MCDANIEL Photo 5 (Page 8-A) Place of remembrance: Shelly Phelps bows her head after Friday’s emotional prayer service at the Oklahoma City National Memorial mourning the victims of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks. – STAFF PHOTO BY BRYAN TERRY

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