When Philippe Petit walked between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center via tightrope in 1974, nobody waited below to catch his fall. Petit made it across, but more than 30 years later, his daring walk became the most lighthearted topic in a Burke church full of painful memories, sadness and hope.
Rev. MaryAnn McKibben Dana, of the Burke Presbyterian Church, read a children’s book about the infamous man who walked from one incomplete tower to the other in 1974. She read the book, "The Man Who Walked Between the Towers" by Mordicai Gerstein, as part of the children’s message at the special interfaith service for peace at the church. Nearly 200 Jews, Muslims and Christians gathered at the church for prayer and song to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It was the reading of the book that brought smiles and laughter to a room where it was least expected.
The Burke Presbyterian Church represented a place of unity for all religions on the fifth anniversary. The service to commemorate those who died in the attacks brought the religions of both the attackers and its victims together. The sounds from a piano and flute duo set the somber mood, while the same music also lit up the dim room with some joy. Some cried, others smiled, but everyone remembered.
“Prayer is our gift, and that’s why we are here tonight,” said Rev. Dr. Beth Braxton, of the Burke Presbyterian Church.
THE PRAYERS reflected on many of the evils that came out of that day, and some set optimistic tones for the possibilities that the future may bring. “The fears and jealousies that we harbor set neighbor against neighbor and nation against nation,” read Jennifer Dunfee. “We abuse your [God’s] good gifts of imagination and freedom, of intellect and reason, and have turned them into bonds of oppression.”
Tuba Alpat, a Muslim, read versus from the Koran in Arabic and then translated them into English. After his words, he expressed his thanks to the church and to the people in attendance, for encouraging the unity of those who remember, regardless of their religion.
“No Muslim can be a terrorist, and no terrorist can be a Muslim,” said Alpat, as he choked back tears and expressed Muslims’ disgrace with the terrorists who have given their religion a bad reputation.
After Rabbi Bruce Aft read "Scriptures of the Prophets," he told the room filled with the faithful to always remember a lesson taught by the brave victims who died that day.
“Let’s never forget the humanity of Sept. 11, of those on Flight 93 on their cell phones … calling home to say three words: I love you,” said Aft.