ARLINGTON, Va. – It was a Christian 9/11 anniversary event – at the Pentagon, no less – but there was hardly any mention of terrorists, Islam, Quran burning nor the planned Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero.
Instead, the dozens of people gathered at the Pentagon Memorial on Saturday for the local Cry Out America event focused on praying for a spiritual awakening in America.
"We've seen the collapse of things we never thought would collapse. We've seen terrorism around the world, in America, on college campuses and in restaurants and places that have amazed us," said Billy Wilson, executive chairman of the Awakening America Alliance, on Saturday. "We have seen a generation that is raised surrounded and inundated with fear."
God wants American Christians on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks to unite in prayer for a "Christ awakening," said Wilson.
Under the Cry Out America theme of "Every State, Every County, and Every Heart," Christians in 842 counties – or nearly a third of the counties in the nation – gathered at noon local time to pray for America's armed forces, its youth, families, clergy, and churches.
Participants remembered the events of nine years ago, when al Qaeda terrorists hijacked commercial airplanes and crashed them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon – symbols of America's financial and military power. A fourth plane crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pa., but its intended target is believed to have been the U.S. Capitol.
Nearly 3,000 people died in the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy and some 6,000 people injured.
Wilson said the 9/11 tragedy should have been a prophetic wake-up call to America's churches to fall on their knees, but the awakening was short lived.
"I wasn't expecting such a call to God [at this 9/11 event]," remarked Sarah Beach, 20, who participated in the Cry Out America event at the Pentagon. "I've always been wondering ever since 2001 where the awakening is and it was such an encouragement to see the call here at the Pentagon."
Beach, who is from Sacramento, Calif., and visiting the D.C.-area, noted that right after the Sept. 11 attacks many people were turning back to God. But she said it is "sad" now to see that people have forgotten about the tragedy and to see the decline in people seeking God.
"It is such a blessing that these people stood out and spoke about this," Beach said.
The Cry Out America event at the Pentagon included some prominent Christian leaders, including Ron Luce, president and founder of Teen Mania Ministries; Sterling Brackett, COO of The Foursquare Church; and Bob Bakke, executive director of Global Day of Prayer for the U.S.
"Spiritual awakenings of the Church have always occurred after a season of concerted, united prayer by God's people in a locality, whether small or large, when the circumstances of life call His people to sacrificial prayer, repentance, and subsequent intimacy with Jesus," said Tom Phillips, vice president of Billy Graham Crusades, in a statement. "Oh, Lord, may it be so today."
Leaders of Cry Out America laid a wreath at the Pentagon Memorial before taking turns to pray and share scripture at the Pentagon Memorial on the ninth anniversary of the Sept.11 attacks.