Monday, September 17, 2001
Thousands Attend ‘Prayer and Remembrance’ Ceremonies for Terrorism Victims
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
The Star Spangled Banner—nearly 2,500 voices strong—filled the air in front of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration Friday as county employees filled the quad to remember the victims of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks and show solidarity as Americans.
“Our country is being tested and we ask you to help us pass the test,” Dr. Hassan Hathout of the Islamic Center of Southern California said in an opening prayer.
“We ask you, God, to enable our leaders to do whatever is necessary, and what is necessary goes beyond crime and punishment.”
President George W. Bush proclaimed Friday “a national day of prayer and remembrance” and encouraged employers to allow employees to use their lunch hour to remember the estimated 5,500 victims of the terrorist attacks.
Representatives from the county Board of Supervisors and the Sheriff’s Department spoke at the 45-minute noontime ceremony of their overwhelming sorrow about the recent events, the victims and their families, and the urgent need for Americans to “stand shoulder to shoulder” and make it though this tragedy.
“We must be strong and we must establish an example for the rest of the world,” Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke said. “We will not be happy until every person in the world enjoys the freedom which we cherish so much.”
Sheriff Lee Baca assured the crowd that the terrorists would be held accountable for the acts they committed.
“There is no question that God will straighten out the individuals and their motives for the murders they committed,” Baca said.
Sheriff’s Cpt. Ken Masse offered a prayer for the rescue workers who responded to the scene without regard for their own lives. Nearly 300 New York firefighters and police officers are still reported missing and are feared dead.
“They went forward into the face of death knowing that regardless of the risks they were taking they were doing the right thing,” Masse said.
“We don’t know why this happened, but we know undoubtedly we will understand it someday,” he said.
Several speakers deplored reported random acts of prejudice against Arab Americans and Muslims.
“We condemn all attacks of lawlessness,” Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak said. “Such attacks, such scapegoating, are deeply un-American.”
“May the angels of our better nature draw us closer together,” Beliak said, quoting President Abraham Lincoln.
Just a few blocks away, an additional 2,000 people filled the south lawn of City Hall to attend another noontime ceremony.
Mayor James Hahn led the 15-minute service, which included prayers for the victims led by Los Angeles City Fire Department Chaplain John Vickers and Los Angeles Police Department Chaplain David Bowser.
“We are grieving now but we are so proud we live in this great democracy, America,” Hahn said. “It is great to be an American today.”
“There may be fewer Americans today, but make no mistake about it, we are stronger today,” Hahn told the overflow crowd. “We are unified today like we have never been unified in this country and we are going to stay that way.”
The crowd sang “God Bless America” as a large American flag was unfurled from the upper stories of City Hall.
Hahn asked that the Coliseum memorial torch be lit and kept burning for the next week.
The City Hall ceremony was also attended by former Mayor Richard Riordan, City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, and several City Council members, including City Council President Alex Padilla, who served as acting mayor much of last week as Hahn visited Washington and was delayed in returning after the attack.
A candlelight vigil will be held at 6:30 p.m. Sunday in front of City Hall.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company