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U.S. Leaders Gather for Prayer Service in Washington

Aired September 14, 2001 - 11:14   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush has declared today to be a day of prayer and remembrance.

CNN's Judy Woodruff joins us now. She is at the National Cathedral in Washington, and she's got the story for us from there.

Good morning, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Leon. I think you can tell by the scene behind me, the weather here in Washington very much matches the mood in the nation's capital and across the country. The weather has been gorgeous all week, today it is raining.

Inside the cathedral -- the National Cathedral you are seeing former presidents. This is, of course, former President Gerald Ford, his wife Betty. We know that former President Jimmy Carter is here; former President Bush -- the first President Bush is here.

And President Bush himself as you just said, Leon, yesterday declared that today would be a national day of prayer and remembrance for the victims of the terrorist attacks on September 11. The president asked -- this is former President Carter coming in with his wife Rosalynn. You're also going to see in a moment former President Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore.

And what we have learned is that yesterday -- sometime yesterday President Bush called Al Gore where he was attending a meeting in Vienna, Austria, and asked him to come back to the United States for this prayer service. Al Gore got on an airplane, flew from Vienna to Newfoundland, and from Newfoundland drove down to Chappaqua, New York, and from there flew with former President Clinton to Washington.

So what we are witnessing is an extraordinary display of unity. People who would ordinarily, in this country, be at political war have come together in a display of just, I think, unprecedented solidarity.

Joining me outside the National Cathedral here in Washington, the Reverend Franklin Graham.

Reverend Graham, what do you say to Americans today who are searching for some meaning, some reason to have hope in the midst of this terrible sadness?

REV. FRANKLIN GRAHAM: Judy, we need to put hope and faith in God. For the last 20, 30 years this nation has looked to its wealth, its own income, stock portfolios, and we have put our faith and trust in our almighty dollar. And I hope and pray that America today will look to God and seek him.

And God is a God of love, he's a God of comfort; he understand our suffering. He gave his own son, Jesus Christ for us, to take our sins on Calvary's cross 2000 years ago. He understands our suffering and our pain. And week need to look to him right now as a nation.

WOODRUFF: So many people, Reverend Graham, now, are asking why, why, did 5,000 or more people have to die for this.

GRAHAM: And that is a mystery, Judy. I don't think anyone can fully explain the mystery of inequity, the mystery of evil. But we know that when man sinned against God, that evil came into the world. And as a result of that evil -- we know there's a Satan, we know there's a devil; the Bible teaches that very clearly. And he's doing everything he can to war against God and against the powers of heaven.

And we cannot get discouraged, Judy. We cannot -- we don't want evil to embitter us and make us angry and turn our hearts cold and hard. I hope that doesn't happen to America. We need to defend ourselves. We need to, I think, fight the terrorist but we don't want us to become bitter and callous. And we need to remember that; and we need to put our faith and trust in almighty God.

WOODRUFF: You say we didn't need to become bitter. And as I'm asking you this question I would point out that your father, the Reverend Billy Graham, was asked by the president to join him today at the service, so he will also be inside the cathedral. You say we shouldn't be bitter, but isn't that a very human reaction to this...

GRAHAM: It is.

WOODRUFF: .. and people are calling for retaliation; they're saying we are going to go back and we're going to get the people who did this.

GRAHAM: Well, I believe that we should defend ourselves. And we need to get free of the people that did this so they cannot do it again. And so I'm an advocate for defending ourselves and going after the countries and the individuals responsible for this.

But at the same time we don't want to become bitter where we just broad brush the Arab world, every person from a Middle Eastern country. They're wonderful people; there are wonderful Muslims, wonderful Christians in the Middle East that would never take part in something like this and don't support it.

But Judy, we have to also understand in every Middle Eastern country there are these cells of Islamic fundamentalists that are bent on the destruction of this country because of our faith in Jesus Christ and because of our support of Israel. And we're going to have to deal with that. It's in every country.

WOODRUFF: Reverend Graham, sitting out here with me in front of the cathedral, both of us getting a little bit wet out here, but it doesn't matter given the enormity of the reason everyone has gathered here together. We just saw, as you were talking about, the nation having to defend itself. We saw the man who would be in charge of that effort, whatever military action is taken; and that's, of course, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

I want to ask you, Reverend Graham, just when you get right down to it, there is a part of the Bible that says turn your cheek the other way. How do you reconcile that with what so many of us are feeling right now?

GRAHAM: I don't believe it speaks to us as a nation. I think individually if someone confronts us, we're to yield, we're to turn our cheek if we're slapped. If someone wants our coat, we give it to them.

But it doesn't talk about a nation's self-defense. We look at the scripture; King David in the Old Testament, he was a man of war. He fought the enemies of God. He fought the enemies of the state of Israel, and God blessed him and God gave him power and gave him strength. And he would pray for victory in battle.

And so I think we as a nation, we have every right to defend ourselves and to defend our children. I have a son at West Point. He could -- he'll be in the military next year. And so I think about these things, and what is going to be required of my own family at some point.

But we have to back our president. And this is our way of life; it's under attack. And I support my president, and I support all of our elected leaders. And we need -- this is a day of prayer. This is where we need to come together as a nation and seek the face of almighty God. We need to confess our sins to God, asking for forgiveness as a nation, and seek his wisdom in what we should do in the days to come, especially the president.

WOODRUFF: Reverend Franklin Graham talking with me in front of the National Cathedral here in Washington. This is a service -- the president and the White House handed tickets out, so this is an invitation-only service. But we are seeing the leadership of the government of the United States and others in the administration. And you're now watching a procession of people who were hand-picked. This is Mayor Anthony Williams of Washington coming in.

Now Leon, back to you in Atlanta.

HARRIS: All right, thank you Judy.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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