Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Airport Chaplain Offers Comfort for Travelers Requests for Prayer Are Up since Sept. 11

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Airport Chaplain Offers Comfort for Travelers Requests for Prayer Are Up since Sept. 11

Article excerpt

Byline: Mary Maraghy, Times-Union staff writer

Let me have a safe flight, both ways.

We pray for Grandma to have a safe trip.

May God keep my sweet precious Katherine safe always.

May God bless and keep us all under his wings.

At Jacksonville International Airport last week, the Rev. Tom Bane read the requests travelers had entered in a journal before he prayed aloud and read from the Psalms.

The Baptist preacher has held a midday prayer service in the airport chapel every weekday since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The chapel was established 2 1/2 years ago in what once was a janitorial closet. But the daily services, and a noticeable increase in prayer requests, are a response to how travelers were shaken by last month's carnage.

Daily services have drawn anywhere from one to 15, said Bane, who prays alone if no one shows. One day, a man brought a guitar and sang God Bless America.

The services have been "wonderful for employees as well as passengers," said Laurene Carson, chief of communications for the Jacksonville Airport Authority. "Those who attend are most appreciative."

Bane, 66, exudes gentleness. A chaplain at the Duval County jail, he has voluntarily walked JIA's concourses a few hours a week for the past four years, seeking forlorn travelers who need encouragement.

He recalled praying with a tearful man who was returning home after burying his mother. Many passengers are traveling to or from a loved one's funeral.

Bane said he has long thought of the airport as a hurting place. For months, he has lobbied to get the airport a full-time chaplain, be it himself or someone else.

Now, after what Bane calls "9-11" and the ripple effects, he sees the need for pastoral care as greater than ever.

Many people who are afraid to get on a plane stop him mid-concourse and ask him to pray for them.

Last week, Bane encountered few people as he walked the Delta concourse.

He was able to draw smiles from a bored gift shop clerk who was slumped against a wall and a masseuse who read a novel because she had no one to massage.

"Things should pick up here soon," Bane told them. …

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