`This day ... we were a people united'

Marylanders honor terror's victims in vigils, prayer and song

Terrorism Strikes America

Day Of Remembrance

September 15, 2001|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

With church bells tolling from Oakland to Ocean City, Marylanders came together yesterday in public squares, in schools, on road sides, under awnings at malls and anywhere else where there was room to wave American flags and light candles in a show of national unity and in defiance of terrorism.

Tributes, speeches, vigils and moments of silence were never far away from anyone. At Johns Hopkins Hospital, hundreds of doctors and patients sang "America the Beautiful." In Anne Arundel County, more than 200 emotionally shaken court employees formed a circle of remembrance near the Great Seal of Maryland.

On Route 100, afternoon traffic with headlights on pulled over to both sides of the highway while drivers bowed their heads. About 1,100 flooded into the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Towson for a Mass. The workers at Baltimore's Cafe Hon stopped in midday for a moment of tribute.

And outside Baltimore's City Hall more than 2,500 somber people listened silently to political leaders and members of the clergy who stood underneath a black-draped terrace manned by a police officer standing guard with an assault rifle.

"They have toppled some of our greatest buildings, but they have not scratched our greatness," Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley said, his voice cracking with emotion, of the terrorists responsible for Tuesday's attacks in New York and Virginia. "You cannot defeat freedom with fear."

The noon scene at War Memorial Plaza was a stirring part of a national day of remembrance for the thousands killed in the attacks, and Maryland's vigils and services presented an unforgettable mix of humanity and patriotism. The toll of missing or dead Marylanders rose past 40 yesterday.

While many wept at celebrations around the state, the majority expressed the need for resolve.

Among them was Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who in another emotional speech in Baltimore recalled previous days of infamy - including Pearl Harbor and the assassination in 1968 of her father, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

"The year 2001 is now a year draped in black," Townsend told the crowd moments after nearly five minutes of bells sounded from the tower of nearby Zion Lutheran Church. "But from the ashes of sorrow, America has always rallied. And that's exactly what we'll do again."

Similar scenes played out in Maryland throughout the day, making way for another tribute at night, when Marylanders stopped what they were doing at dusk and lit a candle as a symbol of American solidarity against terrorism.

In the city, in the suburbs and on the Eastern Shore, men, women and children took part in a vigil that began at midweek as an impromptu Internet campaign and grew as e-mails were sent to more people across the nation.

"We stand united - We will not tolerate terrorism!" the e-mail message read. "We need ... the world to see."

About 6:55 p.m. a half-dozen people walked onto a lawn on Kenilworth Avenue in Towson and struggled against the wind to light their candles.

Corinne Becker, a county government employee and president of the Riderwood Hills Neighborhood Association, had gotten an e-mail about the vigil yesterday and forwarded it to everyone in her address book - 171 people in all - from her next-door neighbor to President Bush.

"I figured I might as well," she said. "You never know, George might want to light a candle."

Soon there were 10 people on the lawn, then 20 and then 40. They sang songs and talked about what the neighborhood could do to help the families of the victims. Cars slowed as they went by and honked their encouragement.

After a few minutes, Kathy M. Weis of Lutherville parked her minivan across the street, lighted a candle and began to cry.

"I was just driving [my kids] home and saw that and I couldn't drive anymore," she said. "I hadn't cried yet. I hadn't eaten, I hadn't slept. I hadn't cried yet, and now I can't stop. A very, very scared woman finally cracked."

In Talbot County, on the Eastern Shore, Betsy Roe joined a half-dozen of her Oxford neighbors standing along Morris Street, cupping their hands around candles to block a cool and steady breeze off the Tred Avon River.

"I just never thought I'd ever go through anything like Pearl Harbor in my lifetime," Roe said.

Clutching American flags and candles brought from home, about 150 people gathered at Thunder Hill Elementary School in Columbia. Circling a sculpture titled When the Wind Comes, they observed a moment of silence, sang patriotic songs, and offered their thoughts and prayers.

Missy Sullivan, parent of a fourth-grader at the school, said she had received multiple copies of the e-mail urging recipients to "step out your door, stop your car or step out of your establishment and light a candle at 7 p.m."

"There is not a lot [that] our young children can do to help in this situation, but they feel they need to do something. Participating in the vigil is a way for them to be proactive," said Sullivan, a wife and mother of two sons.

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