Baltimore Religious Leaders Gather at Prayer Vigil for Key Bridge Collapse Victims

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First responders, clergy and elected officials, including County Executive Johnny Olszewski and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott (right), gather in prayer for the victims of the Key Bridge collapse (Jillian Diamond)

Religious leaders from across denominations and elected officials from the state of Maryland gathered at Mt. Olive Baptist Church of Turner Station on March 26 to pray for the victims of the Key Bridge collapse and their families.

The event was organized less than 24 hours after the news broke that the cargo ship Dali had collided with the bridge, causing it to collapse. According to CNN, six are presumed dead, with two rescued, and the city of Baltimore remains in a state of emergency for the foreseeable future.

At the time of the vigil, the fate of the victims — primarily construction workers from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala — was unknown. They were presumed dead shortly after, but recovery efforts continued as divers kept searching for victims among the wreckage.

“We know that there are families of individuals who were laboring for our benefit on that span late last night, two of whom have been found,” Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszweski said at the prayer vigil. “We pray for the healing of the one who is still in the hospital, and for the six of whom we are actively seeking out.”

In the wake of the tragedy, many turned to prayer. The collapse occurred at a critical juncture for many religious communities, as Muslims are halfway through the holy month of Ramadan, and Christians and Jewish people are preparing to celebrate Easter and Passover in April.

In a blessing he wrote for the vigil, Beth Am Synagogue’s Associate Rabbi Tyler Dratch addressed the timing of this disaster.

“As the Jewish community prepares for the holiday of Passover, we imagine as if each of us at times finds ourselves lost in the desert searching for a way forward,” he said. “May this great city remain great because of its people and the community of care that we build each and every day when we act with kindness towards our neighbors.”

Also in attendance at the prayer vigil were Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, Comptroller Brooke Lieberman and the consuls of Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador. Several rows of seats were reserved for local first responders, who were honored for their work responding to the collapse.

“It’s an unthinkable tragedy, but one thing I know about those of us in Baltimore is that whenever there is a tragedy, we come together,” Scott said.

The vigil culminated in the elected officials and clergy present, including many of the clergy from Mt. Olive Baptist Church of Turner Station, gathering to pray for the victims of the collapse and the Baltimore community at large.

The situation is unfolding as recovery efforts continue to search for victims and remove wreckage. Maryland Gov. Wes Moore and U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg have called for investigations into the bridge collapse and conditions aboard the Dali that caused it to lose power.

“We know that Baltimore is one Baltimore. It doesn’t matter if we’re city or county — we are one Baltimore,” Olszweski said. “As the world is looking at Baltimore … let’s show them what God can do through us in this moment.”

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