1,400 gather at bridge collapse memorial

Across the Twin Cities, in Spanish, Greek and English, the prayers rose up Sunday. Prayers of peace for grieving families. Prayers of strength for those still searching the Mississippi River. And prayers of gratitude from those who were spared.

1,400 gather at bridge collapse memorial
At St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, an estimated 1,400 people gathered Sunday night for an interfaith service that included responsive readings and singing by the church choir.

"We're here to begin the process of restoration," said Gov. Tim Pawlenty. "We are also here to begin the rebuilding process."

Some in the crowd hugged and wiped tears from their eyes as speakers remembered the dead and missing. Religious leaders offered prayers from the Bible and the Quran.

The Rev. Peg Chemberlin told audience members that although they "shared anger and anguish," the city had rallied in crisis.

"It's important that we stand together and say, 'Minnesota, your heart is full of courage and compassion.'"

"The heroes in this moment, like the tears, are many," she said.

In a leafy St. Paul neighborhood, about 70 parishioners gathered earlier Sunday at St. George Greek Orthodox Church to ask for the recovery of Christine Sacorafas, one of eight people who have been missing since the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed Wednesday.

Her cousin, Michelle Berge, stood quietly and alone in the back row as the Rev. Richard Demetrius Andrews asked God for compassion and comfort.

"And we ask you, Lord, to return Christine to her family and her community," he said.

"We don't know where she is," Andrews said at the conclusion of the service. "There has been no word. As far as I know, they have not even found her car. This is a very agonizing time for the family, not knowing her status. Not knowing if she's alive, not knowing if she's injured or how badly."

Sacorafas, 45, of White Bear Lake, was headed to teach a Greek folk dancing class at St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church, which she attended, when she got caught in a traffic jam. She called a fellow teacher minutes before the collapse and has not been heard from since.

At least five people were killed and about 100 injured when the concrete and steel span abruptly gave way in rush-hour traffic, sending dozens of vehicles and tons of debris into the river.

At Holy Rosary Church in Minneapolis, the faithful thanked God for the "angels" who rescued 50 terrified children from a school bus when the span collapsed Wednesday.

Some of those children sat in the first few rows, then laid bouquets of flowers at a candlelit shrine to the Virgin Mary.

"The thing I always think about is if we were seconds ahead or seconds behind, we could've been under the bridge or in the water. It makes me feel lucky I'm still alive," said Elfego Vences Jr., 16, who was on the bus with his 13-year-old brother and 12-year-old sister.

He couldn't sleep for several nights afterward.

"It was the scariest thing. ... It felt like the end of the world," he said.

The Rev. Jim Barnett said that the church considers the survival of its children a miracle, and that the service was designed in part to help them heal.

"Some of the kids are still hurting. An awful lot are confused," he said.

Holy Rosary held a funeral Saturday for produce salesman Artemio Trinidad-Mena, 29, who was taking the bridge home from work. After widow Abundia Martinez said goodbye to her husband, the church baptized her 2-month-old daughter.

The couple have three other children, ages 2 to 11, in their home state of Guerrero, Mexico.

Ahmed Sahal Iidle, father of Sadiya Sahal, a pregnant nursing student who along with her toddler daughter are among the eight missing, was joined by about two dozen other Somali Muslims in brief prayers Sunday night at the Brian Coyle Community Center.

The Somalis prayed for the protection of the searchers and the speedy recovery of the missing. They also announced the Somali community will hold a public memorial service for all the victims Friday at the community center.

At St. Olaf Catholic Church in downtown Minneapolis, parishioners observed a moment of silence for both the victims and the recovery workers, who continued to search the dangerous debris-filled water for bodies.

Before the Mass, the Rev. Mark Pavlik said the bridge has been a daily part of life for many of the several hundred worshippers, a modern convenience barely noticed, let alone considered.

Now, it's a sacred spot — a grave site, a place in need of prayer.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 06 Ağustos 2007, 09:47