City of Refuge remembers 9-11
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
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.
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.
“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.
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