There may

have been bigger memorial services on 9-11, and there may have been services

that placed more emphasis on the events of that day, and there may have been

services that were fancier and more dignified. It could not have been that

there were any  services conducted with more feeling for a more understanding

group than the service conducted at the

City of Refuge.

The City of

Refuge is a shelter for homeless veterans that is run by Bro. Burt Stigen and

his wife Denise. The residents at the shelter have all given service to our

country and all have paid a price of some sort. If any group can understand what it took for

the first responders to go into the Twin Towers on 9-11, it would be this


The morning

of 9-11-2011 the 32nd resident came to the shelter needing a place

to live. He was given a “welcome home” and assigned to a cabin. His arrival

means that there are only two beds left at the shelter. One cabin is occupied

by a family with one young boy. Another cabin is occupied by a family with four

young children. No one is turned away if they meet the few rules and need a

place to live until they can get a job and work their way back to “the world.”


morning’s service was attended by a contingent from American Legion Post 49 of

Orange, Texas. The Legionnaires were attending to honor those whose lives were

lost on 9-11, to support the residents at the COR, and for another very special

reason. Second Vice Commander Johnny Gill, Adjutant Gary Alford, Service Officer

Connie Velasquez, Ladies Auxiliary President Dianne Bankston, and Ladies

Auxiliary Vice President Donna Alford were there with Legionnaire Clyde Gabriel

and his wife Georgia to meet the challenge made at the first meeting of the

steering committee of the COR’s building program.

There was an

initial donation of $1000 made several weeks ago by Larry McCabe, who

challenged anyone or any group to match that initial donation. McCabe teaches

the Sunday School class at the COR. The Gabriels decided to exceed the challenge.

They presented on behalf of the Post a personal donation of $1025. When Gabriel

found that there was a family with four children staying at the shelter, he dug

a little deeper and made another donation to help that family.

This was an

emotional start to the service. Music provided by Maridee and Douglas Stanley

and Rex Harris, put things on a higher plain, as did comments by Stigen about

the reason for the service.


arranged for Sister Belinda Johnson to give the keynote address. Johnson related

stories of first responders and others who did things above and beyond the call

of duty to try to evacuate the Twin Towers, rescue the injured, and continue

the search with no regard to their lives, in some cases giving their lives for


On a day

when ordinary men became heroes, heroism was common. One man, blind, and his

guide dog led occupants of the tower away from danger in such a way that some

did not realize that the man was blind, they just trusted the man and the dog.

Another man

was the security director for a large investment company that had 2700 people

on 22 floors of their tower had conducted fire drills and excluded no one, not

even the CEO of the company. Twice a year they would conduct a drill so that

the employees would know the exit routes and evacuate as fast and smoothly as

possible. When the day was over only three of the 2700 employees had lost their

lives. The security director was last seen going back into the building. He felt

it was his duty to search and be sure that no one was left in the building. He

was never seen again.

Harris’ song

“My Anchor Holds”, brought tears to many eyes as it related that if you have a

strong anchor, even if your ship is battered, you will survive. For those with

needs in their lives, it was a powerful message.

The COR and

all those connected with the shelter are there to provide an anchor for the

residents and to help them as they go on their journey through life.


ambitious building at the COR is to provide a building to better serve the

needs of the residents and those who will need shelter in the future.

The steering

committee meetings are open to the public. Anyone wishing to make a donation to

the building fund or for information may do so by contacting the shelter at