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Ministers assure that God was there that sorrowful day

Many have found a renewed comfort in their faith since the terrorist attacks of a year ago shook their world.

By ROBERT KING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 12, 2002


SPRING HILL -- The Rev. Rod McClarnon said that probably every preacher in the country has been asked the same questions he has heard since Sept. 11, 2001.

Where was God that day?

Why was God not stopping it?

The answers, McClarnon told nearly 100 worshipers Wednesday at Mariner United Methodist Church, may best be summed up in an e-mail he received.

The crux of the message was this: God was there.

God was in the stairwells of the World Trade Center towers leading people to safety. And he was there listening to the prayers of those who knew they would never make it out.

God was on United Airlines Flight 93 when Todd Beamer asked a 911 operator to recite the Lord's Prayer with him before he and other passengers set out to thwart their hijackers' plans.

And God was there at the Pentagon, hearing the prayers of those in need.

Gary Odom, the church's lay leader, agreed: "God was there beside those people. And God is right here with you today."

A year ago, churches played a central role in helping people cope with the devastation of Sept. 11. A year later, churches served as a place to remember the victims, the event and those public servants and military personnel who have since made sacrifices.

Across the county, churches incorporated remembrances of Sept. 11 into their regular Wednesday night services. And many held morning or midday services, too.

At St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church, Margaret and Frank Terkovich came to pray Wednesday morning for Dennis O'Berg, a firefighter who perished in New York and whose name they took in a churchwide effort to remember the victims.

"We feel like the boy is a saint because he gave his life for others," said Mrs. Terkovich,.

Carol Appleton, 34, came to pray, too -- both for the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and for a relative seriously injured in a car accident in Tennessee.

Appleton had brought her kids to a children's program at St. Frances Cabrini last year on Sept. 11. After hearing of the attacks, she did what many parents did that day -- she gathered up her kids and took them home.

A year later, Appleton was back in church. In fact, she says her family has spent a lot of time in church this year. More than before the terrorist attacks.

"I'm a lot stronger because of it. It has helped me focus more on my religion and seek to clarify a few questions," Appleton said.

At Mariner United Methodist, McClarnon reminded his audience about one lesson that came through clearly from Sept. 11, 2001.

"Make every day count for something important because you truly do not know when it will be your last," he said.

-- Times staff writer Robert King can be reached at 848-1432. Send e-mail to rking@sptimes.com.

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