Bowing her head in prayer, a schoolteacher thought of each of her young students during a solemn Oklahoma City prayer vigil Monday.
Sharon Stewart, of Choctaw, said she envisioned the small faces of her prekindergarten pupils as 28 candles were lit and a gong was sounded 28 times at the prayer vigil at St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral, 127 NW 7.
“I pictured each one of my kids,” she said.
Stewart, a teacher at Stanley Hupfeld Academy at Western Village, was among about 75 people who attended the prayer gathering.
Twenty-six people — 20 of them children — were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Friday. The perpetrator — a lone gunman — committed suicide, and police have said he killed his mother before his shooting rampage at the school. The candles and gong-ringing at the Oklahoma City prayer vigil represented the 28 people who died that day.
In his homily, the Rev. Justin Lindstrom, dean of St. Paul's, said the Newtown shootings seemed to shatter the joy and anticipation that typifies the liturgical season of Advent. Lindstrom said Oklahoma City knows how much one terrible act can change many lives.
“We as a city in Oklahoma City know far too well what it is like to have lives taken from us in one single horrific act ... and we can say that was not God's will,” he said, referring to the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City.
Lindstrom said the city's healing process continues, and part of that process is to gather to pray for people in other parts of the world who have experienced tragedy.
The short service included Scripture readings and hymns. People were encouraged to pray sitting in the pews or to kneel in prayer while the gong was sounded once for each Newtown victim.
Tiffany Meites, of Oklahoma City, said Lindstrom's words resonated with her because she remembers people from around the world praying for victims, survivors and Oklahoma City as a whole in the aftermath of the 1995 bombing.
“I came tonight, in part, to give back to the community like the community around the world gave back to the city after the Murrah bombing,” she said.
Meites said she attended Monday's prayer vigil to pray for the Newtown victims and their families. She said she also prayed for healing for the mentally ill and for better access to services that may aid them.
Lindstrom said the decision was made to host the prayer and Eucharist service because prayer is a powerful way to respond to tragedy and help people find solace.