NEW YORK – Church communities nationwide are marking the sixth anniversary of Sept. 11 attacks with events and services to honor both heroes and victims.
Groups as close as a few blocks to the site where the first attack took place to those thousand of miles away have scheduled memorial services, prayer vigils, performances or events to remember fallen victims and also to show appreciation to local heroes. Many have even held events prior to the date in remembrance of the tragedy that struck the heart of the nation.
"Something happened six years ago, on Sept. 11, 2001, that forever changed the way we look at our world. We had lots of heroes that day. Today we honor that,” said the Rev. Dudley Plaisance Jr of Pirtle United Methodist Church in Kiglore, Texas, which marked the anniversary by honoring local firefighters for their response to the disaster at the twin towers and a fire that destroyed the church’s original building in 2002.
"Really, what you saw on 9/11 [was] the selflessness, all the good qualities about them," said Michael Searcy, a member Crim's Chapel Volunteer Fire Department, according to the Longview News-Journal of Texas. "And they gave their lives to something that looked impossible. And there's no telling how many lives they saved."
One group in California hosted a Heroes’ Day ceremony on Saturday, honoring public officers ranging from local law enforcement officers, firefighters and members of the military.
"They need to know the community is behind them,” said Suzon Gerstel, president of Prayer Angels for the Military, according to The Signal local newspaper of Santa Clarita Valley.
The event also accepted funds and care packages from guests to send to members of the military in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While the past few days have been marked by events honoring local heroes, Tuesday’s services will focus more on remembering those who lost their lives in the tragedy.
St. Paul’s Chapel, part of the historic Trinity Church located blocks near Ground Zero, was scheduled to commemorate the anniversary by ringing of its Bell of Hope and holding a Civic Service of Remembrance and Anointing with Oil.
Meanwhile, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., planned to dedicate its morning to an Interfaith Service of Remembrance and was expected to toll the Bourdon Bell to mark the exact moment of each terrorist attack. The cathedral will then hold its Prayer Vigil for Peace at noon, inviting to the service all who wish to pray and remember the victims.
At the Pentagon, where the second terrorist plane attacked in 2001, members of the armed forces as well as government employees and their families will attend a multi-faith service to honor those who gave their lives. Following the one-hour event, Christian band Newsboys will also perform at two-hour concert.
“The events of 9/11 touched us all,” commented Peter Furler, lead vocalist of newsboys, “and the willing sacrifices of the men and women of our armed forces to defend is truly awe-inspiring.”
A total of 2,996 people lost their lives during the Sept. 11 attacks when two planes attacked the World Trade Center towers in New York City and another attacked the Pentagon in Virginia.
In San Antonio, Texas, names of each victim will be read out loud during the "9/11 Keeping Faith, Keeping Freedom" interfaith/ecumenical services, where each participating institution holding a ceremony will be given the names of 30 victims of 9/11 to read aloud.
Other events taking place on Tuesday will range from three-thousand flags display commemorating the victims of the 9/11 attacks at the Greater Buffalo chapter of the American Red Cross to orchestra performances and concerts at local churches.
In addition to the variety of services across the country, most events will observe moments of silence for the fallen victims. Flags will also be flown half in observance of Patriot Day.