NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Tens of thousands of high school and junior high school students gathered around the flagpole Sept. 19 to pray for the nation and the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and western Pennsylvania.
Turnout was much larger than expected, according to See You at the Pole organizers. More than 3 million students from all 50 states and 20 countries were expected to participate in the annual event, with “Desperate for God” as this year’s theme.
In Fort Worth, Texas, hundreds of students gathered for a See You at the Pole celebration at Wedgwood Baptist Church — the site of the nation’s second worst mass shooting.
Two years ago, a gunman walked into Wedgwood, killing seven people and wounding seven others, before committing suicide. Forty Days, the band that played that night, returned to perform at the Sept. 19 Wedgwood rally.
“I came here with my friends who are Baptists, Episcopalians, Methodists,” said Andrew Higgs, a student at North Crowley High School. “It’s a good way to get away from the normal structures of our church and get into one thought. We’re just here to praise God.”
Many See You at the Pole observances had a patriotic flavor this year as students prayed for the country and the families of people killed in the Sept. 11 terrorism onslaught.
At William James Middle School in Fort Worth, nearly 100 students gathered four or five deep around the pole, the American flag lowered to half-staff. The event began with prayers, but students quickly switched to patriotic songs — God Bless America, America the Beautiful and the Star Spangled Banner.
In Atlanta, more than 200 students met at Harrison High School to sing and pray. Eric Scheibe, co-president of the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter, referred to the tragedy in his opening remarks.
“As the innocent are buried, our innocence is buried as well,” the 18-year-old senior said.
The crowd at Stockbridge High School was so large that students clasped hands and prayed around a temporary flagpole held by a student.
In Louisville, Ky., about 50 students, some wearing ROTC uniforms, gathered at Valley High School, asking for divine guidance for the nation’s leaders as they prepare for a possible military response to the attacks.
“During this time of horrible tragedy, it’s like this is the only thing I can do, Laura Tipton told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “I really believe in the power of prayer.”
In Indiana, at Floyd Central High School, some 250 students gathered inside a gymnasium to pray due to rainy weather. A student rendition of “Amazing Grace” played on bagpipes commemorated the victims.
Christian students in San Bernardino, Calif., were encouraged to pray for the enemies of the United States.
“It is stirring to see what’s happened,” said Angelina D’Angelo, of Hemet High School. “Everybody is now praying and really united. That’s awesome.”
“You can really see God working because students just want to show people they have God,” said Kelsey Bray. “It’s just really cool.”
Students in Riverside, Calif., showed up to pray even though they had the day off from school.
Bystanders stood in the hallways, behind gates and on the second floor to listen to the prayers and songs of about 120 students at Martin Luther King High School.
The national tragedies “gave us an extra incentive to come out and pray for our country,” said Curtis Warren, a senior. “I think a lot of people out here weren’t Christian, but they felt the need for prayer.”
In Minneapolis, students huddled shoulder to shoulder in a cold rain to lift their voices to God.
“I think this is God’s tears here,” said teacher Vaughn Ekbon of the rain. Students sang “Lord I lift your name on High” and “America the Beautiful.”
“I wish this was every Wednesday,” said student coordinator Amber Kraus. “I’m so happy that so many people showed up this year and that we can rally and make an impact.”
In Atlantic City, N.J., many students expressed fear over the events of the past week.
“Young people are still uncertain what it all means to them,” said John Spriggs, youth director at the Cape Island Baptist Church. “We want to make them aware that God is still in control.”
“I think teenagers are spiritually hungry now,” said Catherine Bracaliello, president of the Alpha and Omega Christian Club at Vineland High School.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: TIME TO PRAY and TOGETHER TO PRAY.