TOPICS > World

America Worships

September 16, 2001 at 12:00 AM EDT

RAY SUAREZ: From above, you can see the scope, the extent of the destruction around the place where the World Trade Center stood. Down below, search teams sifted through the debris, still looking for survivors. Bulldozers continued to clear some of the 450,000 tons of rubble from the two buildings. It’s still officially a search-and-rescue operation, despite the new estimates of the missing, 5,100 and rising. This morning, Mayor Rudy Giuliani cautioned that they may not find anyone else alive.

MAYOR RUDOLPH GIULIANI: The hope is still there that we might be able to save some lives, but the reality is that in the last several days, we haven’t found anyone. And the reports of there being activity of some kind, although there have been several of those, I imagine because there’s so much of a feeling and so much of a sense that we want that to be true, those reports are not true.

SPOKESMAN: Please raise your right hand and repeat after me…

RAY SUAREZ: The mayor promoted 166 firefighters today, many of them filling posts of the firefighters and officers who died in Tuesday’s attacks. Nearby, there’s a memorial site for the 180 confirmed dead and for those still missing. People have left flowers, cards, candles and flags.

WOMAN: Well, I just feel so sad; so I want to help, just want to do something.

RAY SUAREZ: Union Square has been the site of public demonstrations in New York for well over a century. This one wasn’t organized, just the result of hundreds and hundreds of people who felt they had to do something.

MAN: I would like to take this moment to give my condolences to all those who lost there have lovers, who lost sons, brothers, wives, husbands and to let them know that they’re not alone. New York knows how to come together.

RAY SUAREZ: Jose Locada left his messages for the grieving. Pamela Solman Macabee kissed her Hebrew scripture and touched it to the faces of the dead.

PAMELA SOLMAN MACABEE: I pray for the people that are left behind, their loved ones, their children, the people they saw every day that were affected by this terrible, terrible thing. I cannot dig in the rubble, but I can pray for these people, and I can pray really hard for their families. I can pray so hard that I believe that, if enough of us pray, we can open, you know, the gates of heaven so that these souls can just cross over and the families will feel comfort. That is what I believe.

RAY SUAREZ: Jose Reyes simply lit candles. When they blew up in the morning breeze. And Miguel Santiago played his saxophone for his neighbors and hoped there might be a nonviolent end to this story begun in so much violence.

MAN: I’m a veteran of four wars, Vietnam, Beirut, Grenada and Panama. We don’t need it anymore. But I want to thank the Divine One that I can see my city come together at a time like this and just see that this might turn into something positive.

RAY SUAREZ: A public park, a secular temple in the open air rang with Santiago’s music. Two miles uptown, a choir sang Gabriel Foray’s “Requiem.” The kind of crowds that would normally pack St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church at Easter or Christmas filled every last seat for a special service of remembrance and hope. In his sermon, the Rector William Tully talked of the love of New Yorkers for their city and their faith in the future. And after the vast congregation shared the bread and wine of the Eucharist, they closed with fanfare for the common man. A hopeful verse of “We Shall Overcome.”

PEOPLE SINGING: We shall overcome some day —

RAY SUAREZ: And a rousing “Star Spangled Banner.”

PEOPLE SINGING: Oh, say does that star spangled banner yet wave or’ of the free and the home of the brave —

JIM LEHRER: For those who may just be joining us, this is a special edition of the NewsHour, already in progress. And we go now to the services of remembrance and prayer elsewhere in the nation today. Tom Bearden reports. ( Music playing )

TOM BEARDEN: Parishioners filled Washington National Cathedral and other area churches this morning for services that were full of somber reminders of the grim week before. At the National Shrine at Catholic University special prayers were offered for the country.

SPOKESMAN: May we support grieving families and loved ones and strengthen the thousands of valiant rescue workers whose distressful, doleful task is far from over in the rubble of New York and the Pentagon and Pennsylvania.

TOM BEARDEN: America’s loss was mourned at the Vatican, as well. During this morning’s Mass, Pope John Paul II offered a prayer saying he was heartbroken by the attacks. But he asked families, friends and survivors to show restraint and maintain peace even in the wake of their loss. In Denver, people also turned to their religions for consolation. A series of special prayer services have taken place all week. On Friday, Catholics came in droves, overflowing the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. (Singing)

REV. JOSE H. GOMEZ: Tragedy and suffering are where we find our faith. That’s why we are here. Suffering is what God uses to wake us up to our purpose in the world. It is suffering, not comfort, that draws us into the heart of God. It’s suffering, not comfort, that teaches us how to live as children of God.

TOM BEARDEN: Across town, Muslims also answered the call to prayer at the Denver Islamic Center. (Preaching in Islamic) Imam Doctor Amed Shibeni said the basic tenets of Islam condemn those who attacked America. His message relayed by a translator.

TRANSLATOR: The attack on the World Trade Center and the pentagon in New York and D.C. is completely refuted in Islam and is not accepted under any circumstances — for the killing of civilians and innocent people is absolutely prohibited in our religion. Islam is above what the small group of deranged murderers have plotted and committed regardless of their origin. We call on the American people, locally and nationally, to not pass judgment on Islam and the Muslims, for we are your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers. We have made this country our home. Your hurt is our hurt. Your pain is our pain. Your children and your loved ones are our children and our loved ones.

MAN: Please help the victims of the World Trade Center!

TOM BEARDEN: At the end of the service worshippers collected donations for the injured rescue workers and families. The service took place under the watchful eyes of county sheriff’s deputies, who have been on station at the mosque since Tuesday. They arrested a man who said he had an AK-47 assault rifle in his car, but a search turned up nothing. Later on Friday evening, there was also an overflow crowd at Temple Emmanuel where they began the service by singing the Israeli National Anthem. Rabbi Steven Foster warned against unfairly targeting people of Arabic descent.

RABBI STEVEN FOSTER: You know, dear friends, we, we above all, we should not be in this position of saying, “get the Arabs.” Get the Muslims.” I know deep down inside when this whole thing happened we said to ourselves, if it was anybody, I hope it was an Arab who did it, because we want the whole world to see the Arabs like that, but when we do that, we begin to see every Arab as an evil human being. That is not true — just as many people see all of us as evil and we don’t like it — we cannot place that tag of evil upon others.

TOM BEARDEN: Rabbi Foster said some members of his congregation are emotionally devastated. Others are angry.

RABBI STEVEN FOSTER: This man came up to me before I had to speak and he says, “rabbi, what do you think we should do?” And I said, “well, Freddy, I think we should slow it down a bit.” And he says, “I think we should bomb the hell out of them.” I said, “who?” And he said, “I don’t know, but we should bomb the hell of them.” And I… And I gave this talk, and afterwards he said, “Rabbi, it was a good talk, but I don’t, I still don’t agree with you.” So there are a few people who, who don’t, and I think the saner heads are going to have to prevail in this.

TOM BEARDEN: Pastor Rick Ferguson also senses a wide rage of emotions. He leads Riverside Baptist Church, which has some 4,000 members.

PASTOR RICK FERGUSON: I sense emotions running the entire gamut, the emotion of grief. I think an entire nation probably is mourning now, given what’s happened. Certainly, I’ve heard the emotion of anger, and then a… a mindset of bewilderment. What do we do? How do we respond? Particularly, how should Christians be responding to all of this.

TOM BEARDEN: Why do people turn to religion in times like this?

PASTOR RICK FERGUSON: I think there’s a tendency in human nature to be self-sufficient and independent and to run our lives independently, but then we hit a wall. We realize our resources, our sufficiency has its limits, and it’s at that point that we discover… that we discover that we have to trust God. There’s no place else to turn. And so people are compelled, then, to turn to God whose resources are limitless.

TOM BEARDEN: Pastor Ferguson expected a large turnout this morning at the service, and he wasn’t disappointed. He chose to address several fundamental questions, he said Christians face, including the question of retaliation.

PASTOR RICK FERGUSON: Jesus said, blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God, and obeying these directives from Christ protects us from becoming bitter and angry people. Obeying these directives from Christ protects us from turning into the kind of people like the people who carried out these murderous attacks.

SINGING: I come to pray…

TOM BEARDEN: A few miles away at Macedonia Baptist Church, Reverend Paul Martin told his flock that prayer is the answer.

REV. PAUL MARTIN: God says through his word that prayer of the righteous availeth much. We are the righteous; we are God’s chosen people. We are the ones who ought to be praying for sanity, but praying, also, for justice.

TOM BEARDEN: Reverend Martin said that, like the others, his congregation is fearful and angry and wants justice.

REV. PAUL MARTIN: We’ve been taught that vengeance and anger belong – well, we can be angry and I think there is some anger – but vengeance, the vengeance side, we have been taught that it belongs to God. I think what we are seeing emerge, though, is a real concern that those who are responsible will be brought to justice, and that, if it takes some kind of military action or activity to find out who they are, where they are, then I think justice is something that we are all looking for, not vengeance, but justice.

TOM BEARDEN: If the Denverites who came to their houses of worship this week, be it a church, a synagogue, or a mosque, shared sadness, anger and fear, they also shared something else, patriotism.

PEOPLE SINGING: God bless America my home, sweet home –

JIM LEHRER: As Tom Bearden said, the American Moslem community has particular concerns.


JIM LEHRER: Jeffrey Kaye of KCET-Los Angeles has another part of that story.

JEFFREY KAYE: Like other Americans across the country, Muslim students at the New Horizon School in Los Angeles remembered the dead and injured in their prayers Thursday. (network difficulty)

SPOKESPERSON: Allah, please let the people who got hurt get well soon.

JEFFREY KAYE: This was the students’ first day back. The school, run by the Islamic Center of Southern California, shut down on Tuesday after the attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.

SPOKEPERSON: How many boys are there in this picture?

JEFFREY KAYE: But only half the school’s 78 students showed up Thursday. Fear kept many parents and their children away, says principal Shahida Alikhan. She reassured the students in attendance.

SHAHIDA ALIKHAN: Boys and girls, I would like you to tell your parents that we are very glad that you came to school today, and we do have lots of security, and we need to see all of you here in school every day.

JEFFREY KAYE: There’s apprehension throughout LA’s Muslim community, estimated at a quarter of a million people.

SPOKESPERSON: Allah, bless America.

JEFFREY KAYE: Many Muslims and Arab Americans remember how they unfairly became targets of suspicion after the Oklahoma City bombing.


JEFFREY KAYE: This week, the offices of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, an advocacy group, received messages of hatred soon after Tuesday’s attacks.

SPOKESPERSON: And in another e-mail by a different person, “go to hell, you f-ing Arab devils. We will have our revenge.” And then there’s another one.

JEFFREY KAYE: Are you getting many of these?

SPOKESPERSON: Yeah, we’re getting them, and the ones that, you know, we’re able to retrieve, we’re just forwarding to the FBI.

JEFFREY KAYE: In this office, stories have also been coming in about anti-Muslim incidents around the country, incidents ranging from graffiti in Los Angeles to gunshots fired into an unoccupied Texas mosque.

SARAH ELTANTAWI: I think we need to get together and listen to each other.

JEFFREY KAYE: Phone call by phone call, Sarah Eltantawi is trying to stave off hatred.

SARAH ELTANTAWI: First of all, when people say things like “we need to wipe all those people out,” what’s behind that is that people don’t think that these people are Americans just like them.

JEFFREY KAYE: As they field calls into the office and reach out for support, the staff has two main messages: America’s six million Muslims are part of the mainstream, and their religion, Islam, does not condone terrorism. Eltantawi says she herself got a taste of fear after the attacks.

SARAH ELTANTAWI: I was threatened on the air yesterday. I did a KFI radio show, and I got a death threat on the air, live. ( Phone ringing ) Pardon me.

SPOKESMAN: Go ahead.


SPOKESMAN: Ron, on the 10 freeway. You’re on the John and Ken Show.

SPOKESMAN: The program she appeared on, hosted by Ken Kobylt and John Chambeau, is a staple of Los Angeles Talk Radio.

SPOKESPERSON: We should make a list of every terrorist against the United States in the last 20 years, and then what you do is you get them all around Times Square, Washington Monument, you line them up, and you summarily execute them — no trial, no speeches. You just execute them as war criminals.

JEFFREY KAYE: Here, outrage is an essential ingredient of the programming.

SPOKESMAN: We haven’t gotten a single call from anybody looking at the humanitarian side of this. I remember during the Gulf War, there were people who said “slow down, we shouldn’t do this, this is wrong. Innocent people are going to get hurt. We shouldn’t be killing over oil.” You don’t hear any of that so far in the first three days. These people have a right to be angry. I mean, we lost thousands of people here, and how could you not… You wouldn’t be human if you weren’t angry. And you should be allowed to express it on the public airwaves in America.

JEFFREY KAYE: But can angry words on the airwaves lead to angry actions? That’s what worries Lieutenant Joe Impellizeri. He heads the recently founded hate crimes unit of the LA Sheriff’s Department.

LIEUTENANT JOE IMPELLIZERI: It seems like the media in the talk show venue seems to be fueling a lot of this hostility. And I think that they really need to exercise some responsibility here, and rather than inflaming, I think that they need to be just a little bit more balanced in how they present this, because right now, the psyche of our nation is just so fragile that, really, those little sparks could just lead to major forest fires.

JEFFREY KAYE: To prevent those fires from starting, Muslim leaders are trying to forge alliances with other groups.

SPOKESMAN: Fundamentally, we are all human beings, and beyond that, we are all simply Americans.

JEFFREY KAYE: On Wednesday, they hosted an interfaith gathering at a mosque. They’re also discussing ways to show their support for their country.

SPOKESMAN: As an organization, MPAC should make a significant donation to the Red Cross for disaster relief involved with this.

SPOKESPERSON: There’s a lot of organizations, particularly Muslim organizations, that are trying to organize a blood drive. I suggest that we coordinate with them and have one blood drive on behalf of the entire Muslim community.

SPOKESMAN: You know the organizations, do you?


JEFFREY KAYE: Yet as Muslims reach out to others, they’re also wary about their own community’s welfare and safety.

SPOKESPERSON: Our teachers, most of them have the proper scarf on their head as Muslims, and they are afraid. They are afraid to go out to come to the school, even when the school is open. And my assistant over here, she walks from home; it’s very close. I wouldn’t make her walk in the street yesterday. I wasn’t sure of her safety.

JEFFREY KAYE: For protection, they have turned to law enforcement. Police have responded with a visible presence at Islamic events and buildings. They are also responding to reports of harassment of people often confused with Muslims, like Indians, Armenians, and Italians. Lieutenant Impellizeri says police are taking hate crimes much more seriously now than in the past.

IMPELLIZERI: Our level of response has changed dramatically. I think that we are in a much more high-profile role now with the community. I think that our delivery service to the communities is at a much higher, more sophisticated level.

JEFFREY KAYE: Muslim activist Omar Ricci has been heartened by support from local law enforcement.

OMAR RICCI: Law enforcement agencies around the nation have been very proactive, and this is, I think, a monumental leap. I think ten years ago, if something like this had happened, we may not be in the same position. There could’ve actually been, you know, people being killed at this point.

WOMAN SINGING: ‘Twas grace that brought…

JEFFREY KAYE: Ricci joined an interdenominational prayer vigil outside Pasadena City Hall Thursday night. Here, despite their anxieties, Muslims stood with their fellow Americans, praying, singing, and hoping that wisdom and compassion will guide their country’s actions in the dangerous days ahead.


JIM LEHRER: Sorry about the technical problem at the beginning of that tape. You ended up missing nothing. We just started it all over again. Still to come on the NewsHour tonight: What the tragedy may have done to the economy, what some college students are thinking, and what is on the mind of essayists: Roger Rosenblatt, Richard Rodriguez, Jim Fisher, Clarence Page and Anne Taylor Fleming.