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Day of prayer, loss and mourning for Los Angeles Episcopalians

By Mary Trainor, Robert Williams and Pat McCaughan
[Episcopal News Service]  Episcopalians throughout the six-county Diocese of Los Angeles gathered in prayer at special services in response to terrorist acts early September 11 upon the World Trade Center in Manhattan and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Congregations from Santa Barbara to San Clemente to San Bernardino and elsewhere held prayer vigils and requiem Eucharists, and other services are scheduled throughout the week.

At the Cathedral Center of St. Paul in Echo Park, Bishop Jon Bruno offered a message of hope and strength during a special Eucharist at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Bruno called for a response of reconciliation, not retaliation.

Meanwhile, the diocese mourns the loss of three persons who died in two of the air crashes related to the disaster. Among the dead are Lynn and David Angell, volunteers at Hillsides, an Episcopal home for abused children in Pasadena. Lynn Angell also was a former librarian at the Campbell Hall school in North Hollywood. David Angell was executive producer of several popular television programs, including Frazier. Also killed was Christopher Newton, a parishioner of St. Luke's Church in Long Beach and son of active parishioners there.

The Angells were aboard American Airlines Flight 11, which took off from Boston that morning, bound for Los Angeles. The Boeing 767 reportedly was the first hijacked craft to hit the World Trade Center. Newton was aboard American Airlines Flight 77, bound from Washington-Dulles Airport to Los Angeles, when hijackers caused the Boeing 757 to crash into the Pentagon.

At the Cathedral Center service, some 60 people arrived to attend the solemn service, which ended with parishioners processing in silence with lighted candles, placing them in a central receptacle in front of the altar. The Gospel reading selected was Matthew 5:43-48, in which Jesus said, 'But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven...'

First-hand reports from Episcopalians in New York

In the wake of reports of the coordinated terrorist attack in New York and Washington, D.C., Bruno issued a request that all Episcopal church sanctuaries within the six-county Diocese of Los Angeles be opened and available for prayer for a united time of vigil.

'Let us unite in prayer at this distressing time,' Bruno said at the Cathedral Center. 'Even through these horrible events, obviously the worst assault on this nation since Pearl Harbor, God is our strength and our refuge. I ask all in the diocese to pray and to work in every way possible in the interest of peace and calm amid this crisis.'

In New York's Harlem neighborhood, former Los Angeles area priest Adam McCoy wrote on behalf of the Church of St. Edward the Martyr in East Harlem. 'We at St. Edward's seem all to be well. My secretary's son, Michael Trinidad, works in the WTC, and had just entered the lobby when the fireball exploded down through the elevator door. He left as fast as he could and home safely. A member of the vestry, Shelly Diaz, works at Merrill Lynch in the World Financial Center just two blocks north, and she is safe, but traumatized by seeing people jump and the experience of getting out.'

McCoy reported that Bishop Mark Sisk asked all congregations in New York City to hold services Tuesday evening. 'We did, and the people who came were the toughest kids on the toughest block in East Harlem. I guess God knew that this city needs tough prayers from tough kids.'

In other areas, Canon Lydia Lopez and the Rev. Butch Gamarra were on a flight out of Hartford, Connecticut, which landed safely in Little Rock, Arkansas, rather than its destination of Dallas.

Executive Council's Crew reports collapse while on phone

Episcopal News senior correspondent Pat McCaughan was speaking by telephone with Executive Council member Dr. Louie Crew in Newark, New Jersey at the time the World Trade Center's second tower collapsed. Crew paused--a long silence--in the midst of a conversation about his work with the New Commandment Reconciliation Task Force.

'The second tower of the World Trade Center just collapsed,' he said. There was another long pause--for prayer this time for the injured, the dying and the dead, and for their families, for the entire country.

'This is all of us,' said Crew, who was watching the horrific scene from his 22nd story apartment in Jersey City, 17 miles from the World Trade Center. 'It looks like Hiroshima. It's smoking. People are jumping--I'm not sure if they're jumping or it's bodies,' he said.

He estimated that thousands were injured or killed in the worst act of terrorism in the history of the United States. 'I am sitting here, watching the burning of the World Trade Center Towers. Both towers are gone. This will change forever how we live and how we view ourselves as Americans.

'They hit us where it hurts. We are the biggest and proudest. The World Trade Center boasts the tallest buildings in the world, except for the Sears Tower. It looks like Hiroshima.'

Crew had returned from Honduras the night before and was having breakfast with some friends--two priests--at the Hilton when the attack occurred.

'They have family members who work at the World Trade Center and had no way of finding out if they were safe or not,' he said.

The island of Manhattan was quickly sealed off--local TV stations were off the air, cell phones were no longer responding, most ground transportation halted, Crew said.