Mothers whose children played quietly in the background, men and women in business suits, and construction workers in jeans and T-shirts printed with "Property of the U.S. Prayer Force" came to Vietnam Memorial Park in Westminster yesterday to pray.
As a chime tolled noon, the people of different backgrounds came together with one intent as they joined hands in prayers for peace and unity.
"We need to pray for this country," said Larry Owens, who spent his lunch hour at the gathering. "Prayer will turn it around."
In a ceremony repeated in thousands of cities across the country, about 50 people spent the noon hour "united in prayer," the theme for the annual National Day of Prayer.
They listened intently, many with eyes closed and hands folded reverently, as several people led petitions for the nation. The sun shone brightly on the memorial to Carroll County's fallen veterans. State Sen. Larry E. Haines called the site most appropriate for the service.
"We stand before a symbol of freedom, a memorial to those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect America," he said. "Let us pray to preserve freedom."
Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown gave thanks for the beautiful day and for those people who are "a wellspring of strength and inspiration for leaders."
Lynn Negley, co-chairman of the event, encouraged everyone to turn to God.
"We are all equal at his feet and all within reach of God's love and power," said Mr. Negley, a county employee. "There is unity in prayer."
In her prayer for teachers, Mary Stong, principal of Uniontown Elementary School, said: "Anyone influencing the life of a child should fall down on your knees and ask for guidance."
While educators have a "tremendous responsibility," she said, families are the primary teachers.
"Education needs to be an example to the family," said Ms. Stong. "Children listen to every word out of your mouth and model themselves after your example."
A Uniontown farmer led prayers for the hungry.
"There are probably hungry children within a mile of where we are standing," said Bob Bounds. "Our barns are filled with plenty. Let us ask the Lord's help to get food to people who desperately need it."
As Heidi K. L. Haines sang "People Need Our Lord," Barbarann Fagley wrapped her arm around a crying woman's shoulder.
"God was here today," said Ms. Fagley. "I felt really anointed by the Holy Spirit."
At Marcia Reinhart's request, participants joined hands in a final prayer.
"We are willing to be called Christians," said Ms. Reinhart, who has organized the event for two years. "Lord, we pray that you spread your word through us."