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Worshiping amid tornado rubble

February 05, 2007|From Times Wire Services

LADY LAKE, FLA. — Gospel singing and shouts of "Hallelujah!" competed with the sounds of hammers, chain saws and dump trucks Sunday as parishioners of a church obliterated by a tornado gathered around the rubble to remember the dead and pray for the strength to rebuild.

With his pulpit at the Lady Lake Church of God torn apart, the Rev. Larry Lynn stepped onto a carpeted platform with a broken cross propped up next to an American flag. Now a few inches off the ground, the platform was once the church's second floor.

The church's wreckage has become a rallying point in this rural area of central Florida hit hard by three tornadoes that killed 20 people and destroyed hundreds of homes early Friday.

"There will be days that life will wear you down," Lynn told more than 100 people at the service. "But life does go on, and we're here to help you pull it together. Don't let bitterness set in."

Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, handling his first natural disaster since taking office last month, also attended Sunday's service. He canceled plans to attend the Super Bowl in Miami, which included a pregame moment of silence for the storm's victims.

Crist said the Federal Emergency Management Agency had kept its promise to help quickly.

President Bush has designated Lake, Sumter, Seminole and Volusia counties as disaster areas eligible for millions of dollars in aid and loans.

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