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Area residents turn to prayer for solace

When Rabbi Yisroel Miller started his workday Tuesday morning at Poale Zedeck Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, he had intended to work on his message to be delivered during next week's Rosh Hashanah celebration.

Stunned by news of the attacks on New York's World Trade Towers, the Pentagon and a downed passenger plane in Somerset County, Miller realized that silence was the best he could muster.

'It was not a time to be putting words together,' Miller said. 'It was a time to be thinking about people.'

But when the time came for evening prayers, Miller departed from the routine and begged worshipers to concentrate on the psalms and to deliver them passionately.

Throughout the city, county and country yesterday, many turned to prayer.

'At the very least, it's our obligation to try to feel the suffering of others,' Miller said. 'In our response to this terrible, terrible tragedy ... we need to try to put a little more of ourselves into it.

'Truly, all sincere prayer is heard by God.'

Some 500 Carnegie Mellon University students converged on the center of campus in Oakland for a candlelight vigil last night to honor the victims of yesterday's attacks.

'Even though we are hundreds of miles from Washington, D.C., or New York, we are all affected in some way by today's events,' student body President Adam Harber said.

During the mad late-morning rush to flee Downtown, more than 500 people sought sanctuary at the noon Mass inside St. Mary of Mercy Catholic Church on Stanwix Street, Downtown.

They came for words of comfort, for their faith to make some sense of the tragedy unfolding in a city not far enough away.

'I thought the best place I could possibly be was in church,' said Cathy Kroebil, 53, of Bellevue.

'You really can't make sense of something like this. It's just that without faith, it's hard to go on.'

Auxiliary Bishop David Zubik read from a statement by Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop Donald W. Wuerl, who was in Washington, D.C., for a national conference of bishops. Wuerl was not near the attack.

'In times like this, as our nation comes to terms with what has happened, the church's response to such tragedy is prayer, which has the power to heal the grieving and to change human hearts,' the statement said.

Wuerl called for churches in all 215 parishes throughout the six counties of the Pittsburgh Diocese to remain open all day and evening today and to offer a special Mass today. Many plan a holy hour tonight.

'We must learn to forgive. We must learn to love,' Wuerl's statement read. 'We must learn to live in peace.'

Some parishioners wept as Zubik recounted the Gospel story of the frightened disciples aboard a boat in the midst of a violent storm.

'We as a city and we as a nation and we as a world today find ourselves on such stormy waters,' Zubik told the somber congregation. 'Jesus himself comes to give us the peace that the world can neither give nor take away.'

Chuck Plunkett Jr. can be reached at cplunkett@tribweb.com or (412) 320-7996. Gregor McGavin can be reached at gmcgavin@tribweb.com or at (412) 320-7844. Elizabeth Barczak can be reached at ebarczak@tribweb.com or at (724) 779-7112.

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