BY BILL SHERMAN World Religion Writer
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
9/12/12 at 7:45 AM
First responders were honored Tuesday night in a service at the First Presbyterian Church marking the 11th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history.
The 9/11 service of remembrance and thanksgiving began with the presentation of colors by the Tulsa Police Department's honor guard and a bagpipe processional by the City of Tulsa Pipes and Drums.
Members of the Tulsa Police Department, Tulsa Fire Department, EMSA and others attended the service.
Between choir music, Scripture reading and prayer, four Tulsans shared their personal experiences with emergency workers.
The Rev. Tom Branch of the Tulsa Police and Fire Chaplaincy Corps told the story of a firefighter who gently brought a small child's body out of the remains of the bombed Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995 and then squared his shoulders and went back in.
Allan Waita talked about the sense of relief and peace he felt when he encountered rescue workers after his tractor-trailer rig rolled over, trapping him in the darkness.
Stacy Ward, a retired Tulsa firefighter, spoke from a wheelchair about what it was like after 23 years as a firefighter to suddenly find himself in need of help from others. He was critically injured five years ago when a motorist pulled in front of his motorcycle.
"This smile is real. I'm happy. I've had a great life," he said.
Liesa Smith, principal of the Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences, talked about the fire that destroyed the school building at 2324 E. 17th St. last week.
"We talk a lot about community," she said of the charter school, which she called the fulfillment of a dream by a group of Tulsa Public Schools teachers.
As she stood on the sidewalk and watched the building burn, she felt powerless, she said.
"In that moment, there's nothing you can do but rely on the people who are strong," she said.
"In that moment of fragility and brokenness, (first responders) come in and do what you cannot do. They are trained. They have expertise and equipment. They have knowledge. They have courage. They have sacrifice. They have wisdom. They have all the things that you do not have.
"I've learned something profound this week," she said. "There's something far richer in community than I had ever imagined. I've seen it this week, and I'm incredibly grateful.
"There's something profound about standing in a place of weakness and letting others be strong."
Bill Sherman 918-581-8398
City of Tulsa Pipes and Drums member Rick Ewing plays during the processional for the 9/11 service at the First Presbyterian Church downtown Tuesday evening. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Boy Scout William Kobos, 10, rests his head on the shoulder of his mother, Margaret Kobos, during Tuesday evening's service. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Carol Rowland (right), who attended the service, thanks retired firefighter Stacy Ward, following Tuesday's 9/11 remembrance service at the First Presbyterian Church. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Emma Sharp (left) and Melanie Piche sing "The Gift of Love" during Tuesday evening's 9/11 service honoring first responders. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World