- The Washington Times - Monday, August 6, 2007

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Across the Twin Cities, in Spanish, Greek and English, the prayers rose up yesterday.

Prayers of peace for grieving families. Prayers of strength for those still searching the Mississippi River. And prayers of gratitude from those who were spared.

At St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, about 1,400 people gathered last night for an interfaith service that included readings and singing by the church choir.

“We’re here to begin the process of restoration,” Gov. Tim Pawlenty said. “We are also here to begin the rebuilding process.”

Money raised at the interfaith service will be distributed to victims’ families.

In a leafy St. Paul neighborhood, about 70 parishioners gathered at St. George Greek Orthodox Church to ask for the recovery of Christine Sacorafas, one of eight persons missing since the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed Wednesday.

Her cousin, Michelle Berge, stood quietly in the back row as the Rev. Richard Demetrius Andrews asked God for compassion and comfort.

“And we ask you, Lord, to return Christine to her family and her community,” he said.

Miss Sacorafas, 45, of White Bear Lake, was headed to teach a Greek folk-dancing class at St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church when she got caught in a traffic jam. She called a fellow teacher minutes before the collapse and has not been heard from since.

At least five persons were killed and about 100 injured when the concrete and steel span abruptly gave way in rush-hour traffic, sending dozens of vehicles and tons of debris into the river.

Federal investigators said yesterday that they have given state officials the go-ahead to remove some of the debris from the water, a move likely to speed the recovery process.

The effort has been complicated by murky, glass-filled water, debris and strong currents. It was not clear when the debris removal would begin.

“This is not a process that will happen overnight,” National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark Rosenker said. “It’s going to be a very difficult effort to do safely.”

Searchers concluded a fourth day in the water yesterday without finding any of the missing, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department said.

At Holy Rosary Church in Minneapolis yesterday, the faithful thanked God for the “angels” who rescued 50 terrified children from a school bus when the bridge collapsed.

Some of those children sat in the first few rows, then laid bouquets of flowers at a candlelit shrine to the Virgin Mary.

“The thing I always think about is if we were seconds ahead or seconds behind, we could’ve been under the bridge or in the water. It makes me feel lucky I’m still alive,” said Elfego Vences Jr., 16, who was on the bus with his 13-year-old brother and 12-year-old sister.

He couldn’t sleep for several nights afterward.

“It was the scariest thing. … It felt like the end of the world,” he said.



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