Wednesday, November 21, 2001

People who never met or even knew Allen Boyle while he was alive were praying fervently for his family in recent weeks.

Mr. Boyle, a Navy petty officer 3rd class from Fredericksburg, Va., died in the September 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon. His family was devastated by the loss.

Americans grieved over the loss of life at the Pentagon, the World Trade Center and the hijacked flight that crashed in a Pennsylvania field, but few knew what they could do to make a difference.

Albuquerque resident Lenya Heitzig found herself staring at the nonstop television coverage and praying about what she could do. An idea came to mind: She could remember the victims by praying daily for the survivors, one at a time.

Trying to think about the nearly 5,000 victims who died at the various locations just didn’t work. It was “too much to wrap my brain around,” she said. “But I knew I could wrap my heart around one person, one victim and their family.”

She began making Mercy BANDs, sterling-silver bracelets engraved with the names of those killed in the attacks. BAND is an acronym for “Bearing Another’s Name Daily.”

Mrs. Heitzig, who is a pastor’s wife, hopes her project fosters mercy, which Webster’s defines as “relief of distress or compassion shown to victims of misfortune. A blessing that is an act of divine compassion.”

“That’s part of what made us great,” she said, “bearing and standing with each other. Right now the mainstream media is continually tapping into fear, and there are so many other emotions that we can tap into as human beings, [namely more] mercy and less fear.”

Her family members are wearing bracelets. Hers displays the name of Alfred Marchand, the Alamogordo, N.M., flight attendant killed when United Flight 175 crashed into the World Trade Center. Her husband, Skip Heitzig, pastor of Calvary Church of Albuquerque, wears a bracelet engraved with the name of New York Fire Chief Peter Ganci. Her teen-age son, Nathan, wears one for Michael Fiore, a New York firefighter.

Mrs. Heitzig, whose nonprofit organization Mercy BAND sells the bracelets for $20 apiece, emphasized that the bracelets were not a means to raise money; they were a ministry to “raise mercy.” She said, “I don’t care about the money. I’m not in it for the business; it’s the mercy I’m able to show.”

Each bracelet costs about $14 to make. Additional expenses include $1.50 for shipping, 50 cents for printing additional brochures and $1 to make a Web site order. The remaining $3 is a buffer in case of miscalculations, said Mrs. Heitzig, who has invested $1,000 in the project.

Any money left over will go to a victims’ relief fund, she said.

The Mercy BAND project was assisted by a graphic artist who volunteered to design the brochure and a printer who published the first 7,000 free. A jeweler agreed to make the bracelets. A friend persuaded a bank to donate four computers. A businessman donated four telephones. The church gave her some warehouse space. A Web site,, was created.

Within two weeks, her first batch of bracelets was available, along with explanatory brochures, and 15,000 bracelets sold in 24 hours. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is backing the project with ad space in its magazine and radio broadcasts.

A compact disc of various Christian musicians, including Crystal Lewis, Fernando Ortega, Sherri Youngward and Phil Keaggy, have offered to make a compilation CD of contemplative, meditative songs to inspire the wearers of the band to pray, especially the Lord’s Prayer. Some of the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania recited the prayer before they died. Mrs. Heitzig is encouraging Mercy BAND wearers to pray this prayer on behalf of the nation and the victims’ families. The CD “Mercy BAND” will be available in Christian bookstores in December.

Mrs. Heitzig says her husband is amazed at the project’s success.

“He’s just kind of astonished, too,” she said. “Every once in a while we ‘high five’ each other, like, ‘Can you believe that?’”

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