Baha'i News -- Pomp, prayer are part of Statehouse ceremony Posted on Wed, Sep. 11, 2002

Pomp, prayer are part of Statehouse ceremony

Associated Press Writer

COLUMBIA, S.C. - With a mix of pomp, precision and prayer, more than 500 people gathered at the Statehouse Wednesday to mark a year's passage since the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Two color guard units marched slowly down Main Street followed by Fort Jackson's 282nd Army Victory Band and several emergency vehicles with flashing red lights. As the wail of sirens subsided and the band grew quiet, the disciplined sound of cadence calls brought Army and state Highway Patrol color guards to the Statehouse steps.

"It's hard to believe that a year has passed and all that has transpired in that year," Gov. Jim Hodges said. The anniversary is a time "to reflect back on a year in which, I believe, our country and our state are stronger than ever: united in our sense of purpose in destroying terrorism and united in our sense of purpose as Americans," Hodges said.

The ceremony recognized "the unique service" of people who wear uniforms as police, fire or military personnel, Hodges said.

Along with those who died at the World Trade Center or Pentagon, Hodges said there were heroes in uniform who raised money to help firefighters in New York as well as National Guard members and regular military personnel who have been working to fight terrorism.

"Every day since the 11th, we should feel blessed to live in this great country of ours that stands so united in its sense of purpose to destroy terrorism in this world," Hodges said.

The governor saw the rubble of the World Trade Center towers firsthand shortly after the attacks.

Hodges attended an evening concert at Finlay Park in Columbia that saw thousands of people sprawled out on blankets and relaxing in lawn chairs while listening to patriotic songs.

Kindergarten teacher assistant Tonya Thomas, 38, and her family donned red, white and blue clothing for the ceremony.

Thomas attended a memorial earlier in the day at Lake Carolina Elementary, where the school raised its first American flag and then lowered it to half staff. But she still came out Wednesday night.

"I came out because it's history and brought the children so they would be able to tell their kids they went to the first memorial of Sept. 11," Thomas said.

Hodges thanked members of the South Carolina Air National Guard as well as emergency personnel as they lined up beside the stage.

His brief speech was interrupted by fighter jets flying overhead and the governor quipped, "Wasn't our timing perfect?"

At a Wednesday morning interfaith service, Hodges said he saw Americans of all faiths and races come together.

"It gives us an opportunity to show what we can do and the commonality we have both as South Carolinians and Americans," he said.

The memorial service included speakers from the Baha'i, Christian, Hindu, Islamic and Jewish faiths.

Rabbi Sanford T. Marcus reminded the audience that the attacks brought good, as thousands of people donated money and time to help the country recover.

"A few dozen people did evil," Marcus said. "Many thousand did good."

South Carolina Adjutant General Stan Spears spoke at length during the Statehouse memorial of the sacrifices of people who serve, including those who labored in rescue and recovery efforts after Sept. 11.

"We watched as they diligently worked for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We watched their blood, sweat, tears purify and solidify the foundation our forefathers laid for this great country," he said.

Spears also noted the work ahead, including assembling a weapons of mass destruction team and a volunteer AmeriCorps Defense Brigade under the state Guard.

The service at the Capitol ended with a lone bag piper playing "Amazing Grace" and the roar of cannon from a 21-gun salute rattling windows on nearby buildings.

Much of the crowd was made up of workers from buildings in the Statehouse complex.

"I think it's a healing process," said Connie Bane, 61, who wore a red sweater with a needlepoint U.S. flag and red, white and blue pumps.

She recalls watching events unfold a year ago on television and thinking that was what "happens in other countries. It doesn't happen here."

But it did.

The events taking place around the state a year later show the United States "is unified, is together," said House Speaker David Wilkins, R-Greenville. "We can't remember enough."

©Copyright 2002, The State (SC)

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