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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, September 12, 2001

America's bloodiest day
Hawai'i residents seek solace in prayer groups

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Staff Writer

With tears streaming down her cheeks, 18-year-old Hawai'i Pacific University student Elizabeth Dangers knelt at the back of Our Lady of Peace Cathedral at noon yesterday, bowed her head in prayer and mourned for her country and the victims of yesterday's terrorist violence.

Churchgoers at Kaimuki Christian Church prayed for the victims and families of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. Statewide, especially at religious schools, pastors and teachers quickly moved to respond to the fears of children and parents. Many institutions planned gatherings for today and coming days.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

"My first reaction was for the president to order bombing and wipe (the terrorists) off the map," she said, her face wet. "But that would only create more rage and grief. ... I just hope that they will have peace in their hearts at some point, and that God can give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change."

Dangers was just one of many in Hawai'i who sought comfort yesterday in one of the quickly organized church services to pray for the victims and families of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Throughout the Islands, and especially in schools allied with religious denominations, pastors and teachers quickly moved to respond to the fears of children and parents. Many institutions planned gatherings for today and coming days.

The state's religious leaders called not only for prayers for those killed and injured, but for forgiveness for the perpetrators.

"Revenge, rather than the grieving process, will consume our lives," warned Pastor Roland Pacudan, at Our Lady of Peace cathedral in downtown Honolulu. "And revenge has no boundaries."

Pacudan urged his congregation to "let these authentic human feelings flow" by facing this tragedy "head-on" and allowing themselves to experience the full range of grief and pain.

At the Kaimuki Christian Church School, children were deeply affected.

" 'Does God know this is happening?' " a solemn fifth-grader asked his mother.

"She relayed that to me," said principal Mark Gallagher, who brought his teachers together for an early morning service of devotion. "She just said, 'I don't know what to say.' "

From students shocked at a brutality they have never known, to parents desperately waiting for word from family members working near the attacks, members of the religious community reacted with sadness, fear and despair.

Mapuana Gusman equated her emotions to her feelings as an 8-year-old watching Japanese planes fly over Pearl Harbor.

"It was a feeling of frustration: Why, why, why?" said the 69-year-old woman, who had come to Our lady of Peace Cathedral seeking comfort. "What purpose did it serve, the lives that were lost?"

At St. John Vianney School in Kailua, the 280 students joined parishioners for an 8 a.m. mass to offer prayers for the families of the victims.

Students from St. Andrew's Priory in downtown Honolulu also attended a first mass. As the kindergarten through fifth-graders filed out of the church, "America The Beautiful" wafted through the chapel, played by organist Arlan Sunnaborg.

"Everybody was crying," said headmistress Caroline Oda.

At St. Anthony Junior-Senior High School in Wailuku, Maui, students and staff arrived on campus expecting to gather in prayer.

"That's what we do in a crisis," said Daina Collins, principal of Maui's only Catholic high school.

The short service was emotional and solemn, featuring campus minister Ernie Mendoza and several student speakers, Collins said. Forgiveness was a theme, and students were told that although it is human to question why, there are no easy answers.

"Our students understand the gravity of this,'' Collins said. "Some of them have friends and family who might be part of the tragedy, so they're scared.

"Many believed the U.S. is invincible. It's kind of scary to wake up to this reality. It's a time to come together."

But for George Kalaukoa, who had made his way to Our Lady of Peace Cathedral to pray, there would be no comfort until he could reach his son-in-law and daughter in Washington, D.C.

"Yesterday was his first day of work at the Pentagon," said Kalaukoa of his son-in-law. "I haven't been able to get through." His voice was low and solemn. "I just needed to come here today."

Staff writer Timothy Hurley contributed to this report.