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Pennsylvania United Methodists responding to crash


A UMNS Report By Tom McAnally*

Soon after the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 in rural Somerset County, Pa., United Methodists in the area sprang into action.

The Rev. Duane Slade, director of United Methodist Camp Allegheny, said his staff and other volunteers provided food, drinks and ice to emergency workers, news reporters, state police, FBI and other security people.

At one point the camp was considered as a possible command post for the Red Cross, but Slade said another location was chosen because of proximity to a large building. He said investigators will be in the area five to seven weeks.

Members of the United Methodist Church in Shanksville, about two and a half miles from the crash, are also assisting as needed, according to the Rev. Ronald Emory, pastor. Since federal official arrived on the scene, the crash site was understandably off limits, he said. "We have offered our services in whatever capacity, and at the same time we don't want to be intrusive. They have a job to do, and we are here to support them in way we can."

Emory said he was leaving the post office when the crash occurred. "I hadn't listened to the news all morning and was just turning on my radio when I heard a noise and felt my car move like someone had run into it. I looked, but nobody was in the parking lot. People quickly gathered, and we could see a huge cloud of debris rising over the hill."

The Shanksville church hosted a community-wide prayer service the night of the crash and will host two events Thursday, Sept. 13. The first will be a morning gathering of United Methodist pastors in the immediate area with Connellsville District Superintendent Thomas St. Clair. In the afternoon, emergency workers, clergy and school representatives have been invited to meet with the Rev. Adrienne Howard, a pastor at Allegheny United Methodist Church in Pittsburgh. St. Clair said Howard, a retired reserve office and a chaplain, "is uniquely able to help people serve effectively as caregivers."

Bishop Hae-Jong Kim has called a conference-wide gathering of clergy and lay leadership at Dutilh United Methodist Church in Cranberry Township Wednesday night, Sept. 12.

Forty-five people were on board the Boeing 757, which originated in Newark, N.J. The plane crashed less than two miles from a school, according to Emory.

Somerset County, about 88 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, is a very rural area, and no people on the ground were harmed by the crash.

St. Clair praised the connectional system of the United Methodist Church. "The connection has been shining. We have had pastors make the trek to Shanksville from across the conference to offer their help and support."

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*McAnally is director of United Methodist News Service.

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