This story originally appeared Sept. 12, 2001, in the Lewiston Tribune.
In Lewiston and Clarkston and around the region, hundreds of people gathered at churches to pray Tuesday night, some repeating “God Bless America” throughout their entreaties to a higher power.
And though the coordinated terrorist attack that destroyed the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon has caused many to despair, the attitude among some area residents was hope.
“This was a tragedy, but we can all learn from it,” said McGhee Elementary School Principal Dan Lejameyer at a vigil at the First Church of the Nazarene of Lewiston. “I see it as a wake-up call for America, showing how lucky we are with liberty and freedom and that God needs to be put back where he belongs, as our priority. You can approach this many ways, and my approach is one of hope.”
Lejameyer was one of more than 100 who attended the candlelight vigil in the parking lot of the Nazarene church. As staff members began passing out candles around 8 p.m., the group sang and prayed.
“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrow like sea billows roll,” they sang, some wiping away tears. “Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well, with my soul.”
They also sang “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Jim Baughman, pastor of the church, led everyone in prayer before they divided into smaller groups.
Like many in churches around the region, they prayed for President George W. Bush, the emergency workers struggling to save any survivors buried in the rubble of the World Trade Center, and the families and friends of the victims.
They also prayed for themselves and that the United States would be protected from future attacks.
“All of a sudden, tragically today, we awaken to the fact that there is a sinister force out there,” said Baughman. “We pray that you, oh God, would move into those homes that are shattered tonight ... that you would put an arm of protection over our country and make sure that these things do not happen again.”
Lois Hodgson of Clarkston said she hopes the nation can manage to forgive those who launched the biggest terrorist attack against America in history.
For Hodgson, getting the news of the plane crashes dislodged a rush of sad memories.
“I was in bed and my neighbor called and told me to look at the television. It was just like World War II, when I was home in bed waiting to have my baby, watching the war start.
“This is very nostalgic for me. My baby went to Vietnam, and lost his leg there. And he lost his life in January from a heart attack.”
She attended the candlelight vigil because she was reminded of a Bible passage.
“I thought a lot about a scripture that says in the last days there will be wars and rumors of wars, but not to be afraid because we have God’s love to turn to. The first thing I thought when I found out this morning was to pray.”
For others, the catastrophe highlighted their view of a country fallen away from a foundation of beliefs like “In God we trust” and “One nation under God.”
Sharee Kromrei of Lenore said she was devastated by the thought of being attacked. “It used to be that our country was built on faith and hope in God and freedom and being united in all things. And now it seems like very few families stand together.
“People are so focused on working and making the almighty dollar ... and our family units have just gone to heck in a handbasket. We’re raising terrorists.”
Kromrei said TV images of the attack and its aftermath wouldn’t be erased by the candlelight at the vigil, but that the community coming together to pray was a hopeful step.
“The whole town was still today — we have all been deeply affected by this. And you see the pictures of people pulling dolls out of the rubble and the destruction, and my heart just breaks.
“That could have been my child’s doll. That could have been anyone.”
Todd Johnson, a lumber buyer from Clarkston, said no matter what tragedies occur, in people’s darkest hours they will seek spirituality. He brought a TV to the office where he works and throughout Tuesday, customers stopped to watch the latest news for 15 minutes or so.
“It was kind of cool to watch how the news brought even the most rough, seemingly uncaring and toughest people down in a powerful way,” he said.
“This was a horrible attack on America, and how do the people react? Do they crumble? They’re standing in church parking lots, praying.” n