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'Our shared grief'

One congregation's 9/11 wall of remembrance.
By Donald E. Skinner
January/February 2002 1.1.02

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Many friends and members of the First Unitarian Society of Plainfield, New Jersey, work in Manhattan. Several worked at the World Trade Center. All are safe, but one member lost her nephew, and others had their lives changed forever by the devastation.

The Rev. Kathie Davis Thomas, the interim minister, asked people at a special service to write on a 4x6 card what they had lost, what they were feeling, and what they needed. The cards were placed on a screen titled "Sharing Our Grief." A table in front of it held a vigil candle, books from various religions, including the Qur'an, and items other people had added: photos, a Buddha, and a chalice. Thomas used excerpts from the cards at a service on September 23.

From outside his Manhattan office eight blocks away from the World Trade Center, member Charlie Neiss watched the towers fall. He wrote on his card: "I saw many things on Tuesday I would prefer not to remember. However there is one thing I do not want to forget. Standing on West Street I watched as fire engines parked and the crews got out and took their gear and walked south. Fifty to 75 walked past me. The first tower fell and they continued down. A short time later the second tower fell. Of all those who walked down no more than half a dozen came out of the dust cloud. Unlike the victims in the tower they went knowingly and willingly. I will not forget." Neiss once worked on the 98th floor of one of the towers.

A card from a Plainfield woman: "September 11 was my birthday and was to have been a day of special celebration as one year ago I was in a hospital battling cancer. Instead I find myself searching for understanding of a life filled with such despair."

A woman in her 70s: "I lived as a child in Warsaw, Poland, during the Holocaust. I have seen my home bombed and in rubble. I saw horror but not since that time have I been so affected. The events of last Tuesday—the magnitude of that tragedy is unbelievable. I suffer, I mourn, and I pray for peace in the world."

Another woman: "I've lost a nephew who ran back into the twin towers to help. His seven children, six to 16, have lost a father. My grief is shared by thousands of others. Terrorism must be stopped. I support our president."

A man whose uncle was in World War II: "Dear Lord, protect our young men and women going in harm's way. Protect our country and may our leaders lead us in a humane and loving way."

See sidebar for links to other stories from UU World's special issue on life with terrorism.

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