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Calexico prays for unity at vigil

September 19, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Hundreds of somber Calexicans held candles in front of City Hall here Tuesday night at a unity ceremony in remembrance of those killed in last week's attacks against this nation.

The crowd heard each of the city councilmen pay tribute to the people who died in the coordinated attacks on the East Coast. The crowd then prayed along with three different clergymen.

The Rev. Edmundo Zarate of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church asked Calexico to be tolerant. He told the story of an Arabic woman who spoke at a prayer service in San Francisco who asked the crowd there, "Don't hate me."

Zarate said God would pull our country through even though the events of last week are "too much for our brains, too much for our hearts."

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He said, "One should never take innocent lives or innocent people. Ask for peace."

The crowd then prayed for "an end to all acts of violence" and "freedom from pain and fear."

Pastor Rene Gonzalez of the First Fundamental Bible Church said he was dismayed when he heard reports that the people that caused the destruction last week "thought they were doing good."

He stressed, "God is a god of love and a god of justice. We will come out ahead."

In his prayer he called upon heaven's saving grace for the firefighters and rescuers who risked and lost their lives after the initial attack.

Norberto Nuñez of Calexico said he backs the president's plan to find those responsible for last week's attacks but said he was moved by the words of the clergymen as well.

"We need to rely on God to see us through this in a peaceful way," he said.

After the crowd recited the Lord's Prayer, Mayor Victor Carrillo thanked Calexico for its support.

"I see the backbone of the city of Calexico here; pioneers who helped build this city. I see the Veterans of Foreign Wars standing proud," Carrillo said.

The local VFW post collected goods at the ceremony to send back east.

Carrillo continued, "I see the young faces, including the determined faces of the Calexico High School Bulldog football team who played last week in an attempt to return to normalcy.

"The faces of this audience are the faces of Calexico, the faces of the state of California and they are the faces of those who have chosen to make the U.S. your country.

"Tonight we celebrate the pledge, the U.S. We are all here together," Carrillo said.

Closing the ceremony, Pastor Isai Quinonez of New Life Assembly Church offered a message in Spanish.

After the ceremony was finished and the Calexico Police Explorers' color guard removed the flags, a man in the back of the audience began to chant in a loud voice, "USA! USA! USA!"

People began to join him and pretty soon with help from the football team the crowd united and chanted together, "USA! USA! USA!"

The man in the back stopped chanting as suddenly as he started. He then started clapping and shouted, "God Bless America!" and the crowd cheered.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or claverie7@hotmail.com

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