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The Honolulu Advertiser
Updated at 2:45 p.m., Friday, September 14, 2001

America's bloodiest day
Hawai'i prays for victims of terrorism

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawai'i joined with the rest of the country today in honoring the memory of those who died in this week's terrorist attack against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Lawmakers, government employees and others filled the state Capitol rotunda and lined the railings on the upper floors at noon for an interfaith service. At the Hawaii Pacific University, students joined hands and bowed their heads in remembrance of thos who died or are missing. An HPU flag was signed by dozens of students expressing words of sympathy.

At.military bases, soldiers and sailors stopped for prayer and moments of silence.

Sheryl Ward brought her 1 1/2-year-old son Joshua to a prayer service last night to remember those killed and injured in Tuesday's terrorist attack.

Hakim Ouansafi of the Muslim Association of Hawai'i told the crowd that as a "proud American, with Islam as my faith, to pray for all the innocent victims of this vicious, un-Islamic and unhuman act."

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

When he is old enough to understand, Ward said, she will explain the tragedy. But rather than focus on the death and destruction, she will tell him about the unbreakable spirit of the country and how its people stood as one.

"I would explain to him that there was an attack on America and even though we don't understand why, everybody rallied together in support," said Ward, whose husband is in the Marine Corps. "The unity and support afterwards I think is key."

Ward's message was echoed throughout the night as more than 1,500 people gathered at an interfaith candlelight memorial service at the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.

Many in the crowd waved U.S. flags and joined the Royal Hawaiian Band in singing patriotic songs.

The somber ceremony was attended by Gov. Ben Cayetano, Mayor Jeremy Harris, members of the military, and the Honolulu police and fire departments.

Leaders of various faiths offered prayers, and although their gods may have differed, their messages were the same: hope, peace, unity and healing.

Hakim Ouansafi of the Muslim Association of Hawai'i asked the crowd to stand and hold hands as one. He stood before them, he said, as a "proud American, with Islam as my faith, to pray for all the innocent victims of this vicious, un-Islamic and unhuman act."

"Whoever kills one single being is equal as if he kills the entire humanity," Ouansafi said. "And whoever saves a single life, is as if he saves the entire humanity."

The Rev. Dan Chun of the Hawaiian Island Ministries pointed to the thousands of headstones at Punchbowl and the sacrifices made by those men and women. He said the people of today must not let them down.

"This is family time, this is 'ohana time," Chun said. "When a tragedy strikes we put aside our differences, whether political, social or religious, and we come together as family, to grieve, to support one another, to ask for God's help and guidance in our greatest time of need.

"Focus not on the carnage, focus on God and the courage it will take and we will prevail. We will overcome evil, not with hate, but with love."

Last night's candlelight memorial at Punchbowl mirrored those around the country as Americans gathered to pay their respects to the victims and to come together as a nation.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Adm. Dennis Blair, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, compared Tuesday's events with the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Speaking at the cemetery where many of those who died at Pearl Harbor are buried, Blair said the sadness felt 60 years ago is once again upon us.

Now, he said, it will be this generation's turn to "take on this evil threat until it too is defeated."

"We will light our many candles and we will drive out the darkness that is terrorism," Blair said. "That spirit of Pearl Harbor has been awakened again, here and throughout the nation, and we will prevail."

The gathering was a mix of young and old, military and civilian. Thomas Martin, 16, of Makiki, said he went to the ceremony to show those affected by the tragedy that he cared.

"After seeing that on TV, I had to do something, and the only thing that I can do, really, is pray," Martin said.

Shawn Suzuki, 23, of Mililani met a group of friends last night at Punchbowl. They were there, he said, because they felt sorry for the victims of the attacks.

But Suzuki said he also had to be there for himself.

"I hardly go to church any more," he said. "I don't have time. But it's about time I put faith back into my life."

Many in the crowd were brought to tears as a children's choir from the First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu sang "America." The ceremony closed with a 21-gun salute, taps and the singing of "God Bless America."

Staff writer Timothy Hurley contributed to this report.