Pray for America

Pray for America Forest, Maggie and Luke Skilbred, children of Julie Hammontree, Vermillion, helped their mother place candles and a bouquet of flowers at the base of the Clay County Veterans Memorial's American flag Sunday in preparation for a community prayer service. by David Lias Julie Hammontree and her young family watched their television in horror as thousands of lives ended in just an instant following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

And they wondered aloud, in conversations with each other, what they could do in response.

The answer to their queries soon became clear � they could pray.

So they did. And then, recognizing the unique power of fellowship, they decided to ask others to pray with them.

Using simple index cards and red and blue markers, Hammontree created homemade invitations to the community that read: Pray for U.S.A., 7 p.m. Sundays, Vermillion Veteran's Memorial. Please join us in silent, individual

prayer, united as Americans

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with faith and courage, seeking God's grace."

Hammontree's children, Luke Skilbred, 9, and Forest Skilbred, 6, were pleased when approximately 30 people showed up at the memorial for the first night of prayer Sept. 23. Hammontree's 2-year-old daughter, Maggie, watched in amazement.

This last Sunday, Sept. 30, Hammontree and her three children faithfully visited the veteran's memorial once more. She lit three candles, colored red, white and blue.

Gospel music softly played from a boombox she brought along.

Hammontree, with Bible in hand, and her three children waited.

No one else visited the memorial to participate in prayer that evening.

But Hammontree and her family aren't about to give up.

"Our time is really just for silent prayer, just to come together as Americans," Hammontree said.

Hammontree describes her son Luke as being very spiritual. After Sept. 11, he wondered aloud why Vermillion people couldn't get together to pray for the nation.

The brainstorming session between mother and son inspired them both.

"I said to Luke, 'Do you really want to do something? Because I would like to make it happen.' And he said, 'Yeah, that would be cool,'" Hammontree said.

They called churches and friends and made invitations to spread the word.

When no one showed up to join the family at Sunday's prayer service, they talked about their options.

It would be easy to just stop trying, Hammontree said. Too easy, in fact.

"We talked about the workers who are still in New York pulling away rubble, and families who still don't know where their people are, and people who are still in grief," she said. "They can't give up, so we decided we wouldn't either."

This Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Hammontree and her three children will be at the county veterans memorial to once again pray for the nation.

She hopes that, by word of mouth, news of the informal service will spread and more people will participate in the future.

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