LIVINGSTON — A group of church pastors, elected officials and parish residents gathered Friday in the Council Chambers of the Livingston Parish Government Building to once again, though belatedly, pray for the nation as another anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was marked.
Carolyn Hatcher, who led the organizers of the event titled Cry Out America 2016, said at the outset of the prayer celebration that the event had been planned for September, but the floods that ravaged Livingston Parish in early August resulted in the event being rescheduled.
“When we planned this event, we knew we were taking some chances because so many of our citizens are still recovering from the flood. But we felt strongly that we needed to come together as a community to ask God to refresh and renew us. Many lost their homes in the flood, and we are in great need of prayer as we move forward,” she said.
Hatcher announced the day of prayer this year was being dedicated to the late Delmas Taylor, former Livingston Parish Registrar of Voters and a longtime pastor of the Unity Prayer Center, who died earlier this year.
“My shoes are not big enough to follow in my daddy’s footsteps," said Delmas Taylor's son Jeff Taylor, Livingston Parish assessor and master of ceremonies for the day of prayer. "He was the longest actively serving pastor in Livingston Parish, and the lives he touched through all those years are uncountable. You can take my home, take all my worldly possessions, my vehicle, but you can’t take away the fact that I was blessed enough to be the son of a minister.”
In offering the opening prayer, the Rev. Dennis M. Schaffer, of Open Door Baptist Church, told the gathering, “We remember Sept. 11, 2001, because it changed our lives and it changed our nation. Today we ask for blessings for those who suffered from the flood … but we must not forget 9/11. We must be a humble people who are willing to turn a terrible, bad experience into something good. That is why we come together today in supplication and in prayer to ask that our nation be blessed.”
The Ladies Trio, made up of Emily and Ella Otken and Sammi Rushing, sang the national anthem, and their presentation was followed by a scriptural reading offered by Associate Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court Jefferson D. Hughes III.
“Fifteen years after 9/11 we are still here, and I am glad that we have not forgotten," said Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks. "We must stay diligent, and we must not be lax. The United States of America is still red, white and blue, and our enemies will never change that. Those colors have never faded.
"Wars and terror attacks continue … wars have come to us and our allies … many of our young defenders have been killed or maimed …Christians are being persecuted," Ricks said. "We live in very troubled times. People are killing people for no reason, and our police are under siege. Prayer is one answer to those who would harm our society. We must pray as never before and ask for divine intervention to face today’s problems. We are all God’s children, and we must always remember that He is here for us even in these seemingly desperate times.”
Denham Springs Mayor Gerard Landry said the events on 9/11 made Americans realize just how quickly thing can change.
"We learned that lesson again when the floods came in August," Landry said. "We can’t take anything for granted. We never know when our lives will be changed in ways we cannot anticipate. But we do know that we will get through the tough times. We will face our problems together. We must all pray together and never forget that God is on our side.”
John Wascom, president of the Livingston Parish Council noted in his address that half of the council’s members lost their homes in the flood but continued to help others during the “trying ordeal.” He commended all who came forward to assist those affected by the flood.
“Hold fast to freedom and to those values that made our nation great," he said. "Stand up and be ready to pay whatever the price necessary to maintain that freedom."