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T&D, Sept. 14, 2001

Still reeling from the shock of Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, dozens gathered Thursday at Williams Chapel AME Church in Orangeburg to comfort each other, to sing and -- most of all -- to pray.

"We have experienced new vulnerability," said the Rev. Roderick D. Belin, pastor of the host church. "Through it all, God is in charge."

Belin led in prayer for President George W. Bush and other leaders who are weighing the nation's reaction to the terrorist acts and "for the families who are wandering the streets searching for their loved ones.

"Let us pray against anger and depression, and let us pray for love," said Belin, who added that the community should repent for not having earlier "crossed the lines" of racial and economic divisions and come together "to pray for our nation."

Having experienced the pain of international terrorism on U.S. soil, Americans now may be able to relate better to, and pray for, the residents of embattled nations around the world such as "Northern Ireland, Rwanda, India, South Africa, Israel and Palestine."

Two associate pastors of Williams Chapel also led prayers.

"We ask why," said the Rev. Andrew Jordan. "Lord, you told us in your word not to depend on our own understanding. ... Nothing can happen that you have not predestined. ... You're too just and too wise to make a mistake."

"We come with heavy hearts," said the Rev. Lula Vaughn. "We pray for our people to come together and be of one accord. If there's a time to come together, now is the time."

Orangeburg Mayor Paul Miller said he "cannot think of any worse tragedy" than what happened Tuesday. "Somehow or somewhere there must be a purpose in this. I see our country coming together, uniting behind our president. I see world leaders uniting behind the United States of America.

"Maybe this is a wake-up call for Orangeburg, South Carolina," the mayor continued. "We need to join hands one with another and make this a community of character and move forward to do what God has called us to do, and that is to do His will."

The Rev. Nathaniel McMillan, pastor of Petra Ministries International, prayed, "O God, we need you like we've never needed you before. We don't know what to do, but our eyes are upon you. We need healing today. Father, we ask you to heal the nation."

"Although violated, having death and destruction rained upon us, we are still one nation under God," said the Rev. Burt Williams of Northside Baptist Church.

Williams prayed, "Lord, you said, 'I'll never leave you or forsake you.' Be the God of all comfort to all who are grieving or hurting today. ... Help us to do what we know to do, which is to be prayer intercessors for one another, to comfort one another, to love one another and to forgive one another."

Williams prayed for God to "reach out" even to the "enemies of America ... with your love, for you love them too as you have loved us."

Retired teacher Barbara Porter said it's not appropriate "to say hateful things about those who did this" because "somebody taught them to hate."

"I'm begging and pleading for us to be examples to our children. We should not teach our children to hate," she said. "If we say hateful things, they're looking at us. ... Pray for peace everywhere."

A woman, whose name was unavailable, said she lived in New York for 39 years and worked in a building next to the World Trade Center for seven of those years. "I watched the foundation laid" for the twin towers, she said. "I had friends that worked in the World Trade Center." They are safe, she added, but "suffering."

Another woman said the terrorism "has shaken this nation and has shaken each of us." She prayed for God to "protect us emotionally and spiritually as well as physically." She prayed that "your (God's) voice will be the one we hear" and not the message the terrorists were sending.

A third woman who did not give her name said we are living in the "perilous times" that God has "warned us about" in the Scriptures. She said she hoped those who died in the terrorist attacks were Christians. "When we accept Jesus Christ as our lord and savior, everything is all right."

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