- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 30, 2001

The urge to connect with others and a higher power has surged among residents of the Washington area in the aftermath of this month's terrorist attacks.
Religious leaders say more people are reaching out to others, coming to services and talking about their faith.
And that response was reinforced last week after a tornado tore through the region, killing two college students and causing, it is believed, the death of a firefighter.
Chaplains say signs of the phenomenon are clear at the University of Maryland at College Park, where the community is mourning the loss of two classmates, while 700 students evacuated from dangerously damaged housing are sharing resources and struggling to study without computers, books or beds of their own.
"We're seeing more students stop for questions, and we're certainly seeing people who would not have asked faith questions before asking now," said the Rev. Elizabeth Platz, a Lutheran minister who has served 36 years on the College Park campus.
Since the Sept. 11 tragedy, Roman Catholic Mass has been moved to a larger sanctuary at the university and a chapel has been open 24 hours a day to accommodate students who want to meditate or pray.
At the same time, campus attendance at religious services has risen and more students are leaving on weekends to visit family.
"There's not the casualness about life that there was before," Miss Platz said.
The unity shown when 2,500 students carried flowers from an attack victims' memorial to a campus garden and buried them there as a symbol of hope and new life can help the community deal with new uncertainties and challenges, she said.
At Calvary United Methodist Church in Arlington, close to the Pentagon, the Rev. Stephen Hassmer said pews have been filled both Sundays since the attacks and attendance has been heavy at new Wednesday prayer services, where many supplicants are grieving for lost colleagues.
"People have said, 'Things are so crazy, I just needed to get back in touch with the church,'" Mr. Hassmer said.
With the attacks and U.S. military mobilization coming at the outset of the Jewish high holy days, the last few weeks have been especially busy at synagogues and temples.
"People who hadn't even been thinking about coming wanted tickets for Yom Kippur," said Ruthee Schneiderman, acting executive director of the Bethesda Jewish Congregation.
And at a Tibetan Buddhist temple in Poolesville where a continuous prayer vigil is maintained by a minimum of four persons year-round "activity has quadrupled" said Ayla Meurer, a student there.
"There's more fervor because we can't help but be partial," said Miss Meurer. "But we are trying to use it to see what it's like for others who have suffered."
Meanwhile, most schools in the District, Maryland and Virginia have met the demand for grief counselors with existing staff, although hundreds of students and teachers across the region had direct connections to attack victims.
Extra counselors were called in to help children and staff cope at three D.C. elementary schools that each lost a student and a teacher on Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon. School officials said counselors came from other agencies and as volunteers, at no cost to schools.
But residual effects of the attack on the Pentagon are showing in some Arlington public schools, where more fights and tension are arising on playgrounds, said school spokeswoman Linda Erdos.
"Many schools are close enough that students heard the plane when it hit and some saw it come over," she said.
"Some have parents working at the Pentagon, and there's anxiety over whether Mom and Dad are safe."
Other students are showing signs of money worries because their parents' jobs depend on airline, hotel or restaurant businesses, which are laying off workers.

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