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The Rev. Steve Verhelst from the Church of St. Mary opens the ecumenical prayer service Sunday night in observance of the anniversary of 9/11. The special service of remembrance and thanksgiving at the Church of St. Mary in Willmar was organized by Vinje Lutheran Church, Bethel Lutheran Church, Calvary Church and St. Mary's. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

Willmar, Minn., community remembers in prayer, unity

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WILLMAR -- Willmar area residents commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attack by joining in prayer and song at special Sunday worship services.

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As many as 2,900 to 3,000 people are estimated to have joined at the Willmar Civic Center on Sunday morning for a worship service organized by Faith at Work.

"A very special day,'' said organizer Doug Reese.

Nine area churches joined to host the event along with emergency service organizations in the Willmar area.

An offering at the event was held in hopes of purchasing two all-terrain vehicles with tracks and trailers for the emergency service units in the area. As of Sunday evening, it appeared that more than $37,000 had been raised toward the $40,000 needed for the two units.

Funds were still coming in, and Reese said he was hopeful that the goal of $40,000 would be reached.

Along with aiding emergency services in the area, the community-wide service was held as an opportunity for people to join and offer prayer and song to mark the anniversary, he noted.

Reese said the overriding theme in the Civic Center was a sense of unity.

The importance of joining together in prayer was very much the theme Sunday evening as well, as the pews of St. Mary's Catholic Church were nearly filled for a commemorative worship including the Lutheran congregations in the community.

The Rev. Steve Verhelst, priest at St. Mary's, told those who gathered that it was an opportunity to make the story of 9/11 one of "forgiveness, rather than revenge; one of hope, rather than despair; of life, rather than darkness.''

"Let us believe that love can write another chapter in the 9/11 story that keeps hope alive for a better future,'' he said.

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Tom Cherveny
Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.
(320) 214-4335
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