The firefighters and police officers who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 were honored for their bravery and dedication to duty during a memorial service this morning in St. Joseph's Cathedral.
The tragedies that claimed so many lives "have heightened the awareness of what you do every day," Bishop Henry J. Mansell told 350 firefighters, police officers and family members who attended the hourlong ecumenical service.
The service also was a memorial for the thousands of people who died in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the four airplanes hijacked by the terrorists.
Today's service, emphasizing heroism, was in contrast to a prayer rally that attracted 400 people to the Buffalo Convention Center Tuesday evening. There, the need for America to repent from evil ways was stressed repeatedly by a procession of pastors who also prayed for God's blessing and healing.
For more than three hours Tuesday evening, pastor after pastor appealed to the Almighty for forgiveness for the past failings of individual Christians, the church, the community and the nation.
The implication seemed to be that the terrorist acts were a signal of God's displeasure with America, and most of those present showed their agreement with enthusiastic applause.
During today's memorial, Mansell and other speakers spoke of patriotism, dedication to duty and heroism in the face of danger.
Police officers and firefighters are considered "para-military," observed Monsignor Albert W. Clody, a Fire Department chaplain.
"On Sept. 11, we came face to face with the reality that there is no such thing as para-dead," he declared.
Mayor Anthony M. Masiello also lauded emergency personnel, stressing that in Buffalo, day in and day out, police officers and firefighters respond to calls that endanger their lives.
"They react proudly and instinctively," he said.
The memorial, which concluded with the singing of "God Bless America," was requested by Police Commissioner Rocco J. Diina and Fire Commissioner Cornelius Keane, who both had a role in the service. Diina read "A Police Officer's Prayer," and Keane read "The Firefighter's Prayer."
During his remarks, Masiello recalled the local police officers and firefighters who died in the line of duty in recent years.
The St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute Varsity Singers led the singing of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Amazing Grace."
During his homily, Mansell also
pointed out that the terrorists who turned planes into weapons of mass destruction "don't represent the Muslim world or the Arab world."
"Not one Muslim scholar" anywhere in the world endorses the terrorism, the bishop said.
During the Convention Center rally, Bishop Robert Deas of Greater Emmanuel Temple suggested the attacks might be seen as a kind of heavenly wake-up call.
"God has set the bush on fire to get our attention," he said.
"Before we say, 'God bless America,' we say, 'God forgive America,' " added the Rev. Mike Chorey, director of Western New York Youth for Christ, one of the sponsors of the event.
The Rev. William Gillison, pastor of Mount Olive Baptist Church, told the gathering that God has been legislated and litigated out of public life in America.
"We as a nation have systematically walked away from (God)," he prayed.
Suddenly, Gillison said, God has regained popularity as Americans ask for his protection from "the halls of Congress" to "the baseball park."
"I think this brings us back to the reality that without God there is nothing," said Cheryl King of Williamsville, who viewed the rally as a demonstration of "unity among races."
The Rev. Tommy Reid, pastor of Full Gospel Tabernacle in Orchard Park, suggested that maybe the events of Sept. 11 would not have occurred if Christians had done a better job of spreading the Gospel message of Jesus "to the Arabs and the Muslims."
Bishop Robert Sanders of Greater Refuge Temple prayed for a blessing for the city and the nation and "healing for people everywhere."
The periods of Scripture reading and prayer were interspersed with musical praise led by the Youth for Christ Ebony Singers, Sounds of Glory, a Hispanic ensemble, the Greater Refuge Temple Choir and soloists Jackie Copland and John Bradford.