GARDNERVILLE - For about an hour Friday, 350 people crowded into a Catholic church in Gardnerville became multicolored threads in a national fabric woven together for prayer and remembrance of the victims of this week's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
"Let go of your anger and fear," said Father Bill Nadeau, pastor of St. Gall Catholic Church. "Leave it right here. See yourself getting up tomorrow and putting on a heart of mercy."
Working with a theme of "From Sorrow to Hope and Trust," greeters at the church pinned white paper peace doves with a red, white or blue ribbon on each person filing into the church for the noon service. Many people dressed in red, white and blue to reflect the colors of the American flag.
Outside the church, the flag was raised, then lowered to half-staff by Sheriff Ron Pierini and two members of the congregation.
At the beginning of the service, members of the audience stepped forward in uniform to represent an airline pilot, flight attendant, firefighters and paramedics, law enforcement officer, doctor and nurse, the clergy, a news photographer, volunteer, funeral director, and government official.
The people who died in the plane crashes and the building collapses were represented by a huge floral wreath.
"May we remember your call to be people of peace," Nadeau prayed. "Our prayers raise as one voice."
Readings during the service stressed forgiveness, mercy, peace, kindness and humility.
"These readings may seem rather strange," Nadeau said. "How many of you say it and mean it? But our Christianity calls us to be like Christ. You are God's chosen. Is that not a challenge in a week like this?"
He asked for prayers for victims, whom he called martyrs, and their families.
Nadeau invited all the children in attendance to come to the altar. Mothers carried their babies and children ranging from toddlers to 10-year-olds shyly stepped forward.
"We are not a people who celebrate death," Nadeau said. "We celebrate life and we need to see the new babies and the children. They are the ones who bring us hope, aren't they?
"Teach them not to fear. Look upon these children as the power of new life, as the conversion from mourning to glory," he said.
Members of the congregation also came forward to place money in firefighters' boots as part of a nationwide collection for the families of the missing and injured rescuers.
Following the service, the congregation was invited to stay for lunch served by parishioners in the new pastoral center. Until the supply ran out, white candles were also distributed to be lit as part of a nationwide ceremony Friday at 7 p.m.
Sheryl Herschman, who has been a flight attendant for 23 years, said she is a bit nervous about a Northwest flight to Japan scheduled to leave Tuesday.
"It troubles me, but after a service like this I am a little calmer," she
said. "It's a part of my job and we will go on. Maybe passengers will be a little more attentive to our instructions now."
Sheriff Ron Pierini said the Tuesday terrorist attacks reminded him of the
Oklahoma City bombing of 1995. Pierini and other members of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office traveled to Oklahoma two days after the bombing which killed 168 people to assist in the cleanup and investigation.
"This brings back memories," he said. "You can't put it into perspective just by watching television. The amount of emotions, the expressions on people's faces as they look for their missing with a glimmer of hope."
Pierini said there are enough resources in New York and Washington to deal with the aftermath of Tuesday's attacks, but his department is ready to help out.
"If there was an opportunity, and they need us, we'll be in the front line immediately," Pierini said.
Carol Swanson of Sunridge attended the service dressed in her Army Reserve fatigues.
The 55-year-old colonel said she is ready to respond if called to serve. She is as a liaison to the assistant chief of the Army Nurse Corps and expects to be sent to Houston, Texas.
"It would be an honor to go do this. Hopefully, I could make a difference,"she said.
The parish has created a memorial garden at the entrance to St. Gall on Centerville Lane which is open to the public.