Faithful pray for return of missing bridge victimsby Martin Moylan, Minnesota Public Radio
Across the Twin Cities, in Spanish, Greek and English, the prayers rose up Sunday. Prayers of peace for grieving families. Prayers of strength for those still searching the Mississippi River. And prayers of gratitude from those who were spared.
Minneapolis — At St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, an estimated 1,400 people gathered Sunday night for an interfaith service that included responsive readings and singing by the church choir.
"We're here to begin the process of restoration," said Gov. Tim Pawlenty. "We are also here to begin the rebuilding process."
Some of those in attendance hugged and wiped tears from their eyes as speakers remembered the dead and missing.
Religious leaders offered prayers from the Bible and the Quran.
The Rev. Peg Chemberlin told the crowd that though they came in "shared anger and anguish," the city had rallied in crisis.
"It's important that we stand together and say, 'Minnesota, your heart is full of courage and compassion."'
"The heroes in this moment, like the tears, are many," she said.
Earlier, several hundred people who attended a service at St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church in Minneapolis prayed for Christina Sacorafas.
Father Paul Paris of St. Mary's offered a prayer for everyone killed or injured in the the bridge collapse.
"Lord, at this hour, accept the petition of those who implore your mercy for our sisters and brothers residing in this holy metropolis who have endured the failure of an earthly bridge," he said.
Sacorafas has been very active in the church, which she joined soon after moving to the Twin Cities in 2004.
She's 46 and had started a Greek folk dancing group for children at the church. And she was on her way to the church to teach a dance class when she was apparently caught in the 35W bridge collapse.
Christina called her friend and fellow dance instructor, Rena Tsengas, to say she would be late.
"She called me at 5:56 to tell me she was caught in traffic on 35W. I told her to be careful. She never made it here," Tsengas said. She says the dance program will continue.
"It was something she believed in. She gave her life coming to practice. So, we will continue with the dancing. We might have to postpone it for a little while. But it was something she believed in very strongly, and we will do everything possible to continue," she said.
Sacorafas was born and raised in Detroit. She lived in San Diego before moving to Minnesota.
Father Paris of St. Mary's said Christina has brightened the lives of many people.
"She is a loving person with radiant smile and someone who is a believer and has the love of the Lord in her heart. And a giver," he said.
Christina's family and friends described Christina as an adventurous woman always wanting to try new things. She recently joined a ballroom dance class with her boyfriend, Greg. Christina had also just enrolled in an American Sign Language Class because to learn to be an interpreter.
In a recent e-mail to friends, Father Paris says Christina has made it clear that what matters is a full life, a life worth living.
"For some reason, she wrote in there 'even if our life ends. What's is the important thing is not that it ends. But to make sure we were living life to the fullest.' That's how she was; I should say she is. Because we're not sure," he said.
Other folks whose loved ones are missing are trying to balance grief and hope. The family of Scott Sathers is distraught and frustrated, as they wait for recovery efforts to conclude.
Sathers worked as an enrollment counselor at Capella University in downtown Minneapolis. He was on his way home from work, traveling his usual route on 35W. His uncle, Dick Sathers of Bemidji, says Scott was married for just over a year to his wife, Betsy. The couple had no children. Sathers has fond memories of his nephew Scott, who would have turned 30 on Saturday.
"Scott Sathers was a wonderful person," he said. "He enlightened the room when he walked in. He was one of those type of people. He was just a lot of fun. He was active in almost everything anything he could be active in. So, he was just a wonderful person. He made people feel good just to be around him."
Lisa Jolstad says she is feeling a little more at peace after being allowed to visit the site of the bridge collapse on Saturday. She is the wife of missing construction worker Greg Jolstad. She says she only got to spend about 10 minutes at the Mississippi River site. She wasn't allowed to take pictures or use her cell phone.
"You know it was the best thing they could have done for us because it gave us, you know we've been sitting there for how many days frustrated because we can't understand why they're not pulling any bodies out and it did give us a little better understanding of the complication of it all," she said.
Lisa Jolstad says after seeing the crumbled bridge decking she realizes it could take a week or more for workers to recover the body of her husband.
At a news conference late Sunday afternoon, the father of Sadiya Sahal, described his daughter as outgoing and full of life.
Ahmed Iidle, 64, said he's waiting for the recovery operation to give his family closure. Speaking through translator Omar Jamal, Iidle said his granddaughter always made him happy, and he loved his daughter dearly.
"She was a very peace-loving young lady, very social, outgoing, very kind, very family oriented," he said. "She was a very nice lady who was full of life and full of hope. The whole world was in front of her. Very outgoing person, very nice."
Iidle says his daughter was driving on 35W Wednesday to pick up a relative and go shopping.
Also at the news conference was Mahamoud Wardere, a teacher at Minneapolis Washburn High School when Sadiya was a student there. He remembers her as an ambitious, hard-working student.
"All I can remember was that she was a good student, and she was doing homework all the time. And I wasn't surprised that she wanted to go into higher education. I just found out now that she was studying a health-related subject. So, I was very proud of her."
Meanwhile, at Holy Rosary Church in Minneapolis, the faithful thanked God for the "angels" sent to the rescue of 50 terrified children who were trapped in a school bus when the span collapsed Wednesday.
Some of those children sat in the first few rows, then laid bouquets of flowers at a candlelit shrine to the Virgin Mary.
"The thing I always think about is if we were seconds ahead or seconds behind, we could've been under the bridge or in the water. It makes me feel lucky I'm still alive," said Elfego Vences Jr., 16, who was on the bus with his 13-year-old brother and 12-year-old sister.
He couldn't sleep for several nights afterward.
"It was the scariest thing. ... It felt like the end of the world," he said.
The Rev. Jim Barnett said the church considers the survival of its children a miracle, and the service was designed in part to help them heal.
"Some of the kids are still hurting. An awful lot are confused," he said. "We're hoping to move it toward a celebration."
Holy Rosary is the same church that held a funeral Saturday for produce salesman Artemio Trinidad-Mena, 29, who was taking the bridge home from work. After widow Abundia Martinez said goodbye to her husband, the church baptized her 2-month-old daughter.
The couple has three other children, ages 2 to 11, in their home state of Guerrero, Mexico.
At St. Olaf Catholic Church in downtown Minneapolis, parishioners observed a moment of silence for both the victims and the recovery workers, who continued to search the dangerous and debris-filled water for bodies.
Before the Mass, the Rev. Mark Pavlik said the bridge has been a daily part of life for many of the several hundred worshippers, a modern convenience barely noticed, let alone considered.
Now, it's a sacred spot - a grave site, a place in need of prayer.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
- Morning Edition, 08/06/2007, 7:20 a.m.