BU Grads Dayna Curry, Heather Mercer To Speak At Celebration Service Dec. 8

Nov. 29, 2001

by Lori Scott Fogleman

Baylor University's Ferrell Center will be the site for a community-wide celebration service at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, for Baylor graduates Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer. The women are two of eight foreign aid workers in Afghanistan who were imprisoned by the Taliban for more than three months until their dramatic rescue Nov. 14.

The service, coordinated through Waco's Antioch Community Church, is free and open to the public. Curry and Mercer, who are members of Antioch, will share their story at the service. The event also is available via satellite and an Internet webcast.

Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr. also will take part in the service, offering a "welcome home" to Curry, a 1993 graduate with a degree in social work, and Mercer, a 1999 Baylor graduate who earned her degree in German.

The women were affiliated with Shelter Now International, a non-profit relief organization based in Germany. As their rescue by Northern Alliance troops and the U.S. military unfolded on Nov. 14, President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin were holding historic talks at the president's ranch in Crawford, only 25 minutes away from the Baylor campus.

In the meantime, Baylor was hosting a reception for more than 200 international journalists, who were covering the meeting from an International Media Center set up in the McLane Student Life Center. After receiving State Department confirmation of the women's release, Dr. Sloan announced the freeing of Curry and Mercer at a news conference for the international media.

"Their dramatic rescue is indeed a happy ending to what has been a tortuous 14 and a half weeks," Sloan said. "The entire Baylor family rejoices with Heather and Dayna, their families and the scores of Christians - including Baylor students, alumni, faculty and staff - around the world who have been praying for their release. We are thankful that those prayers have been answered and that Heather and Dayna are being reunited with their families. We look forward to welcoming them back to Waco soon."

Curry and Mercer returned to the U.S. on Sunday, Nov. 25, meeting the following day with President Bush at the White House. The women said they were most thankful for the thousands of people throughout the world who prayed for them and for Afghanistan.

"I'll never be able to thank America and the different Christians around the world who prayed for us, literally, 24-7," Curry told reporters at a Rose Garden news conference.

Even the president complimented the overwhelming support.

"I know there are a lot of people right outside of Crawford that were praying for these girls' release, and when they were, people all across Baylor University cheered," the president said.

Mercer, 24, had been in Afghanistan since March. She is a member of Antioch Community Church in Waco where she was a leader with the college ministry. At Baylor, she was involved with Baptist Student Ministries. A Waco resident, she is originally from Vienna, Va.

Before Curry began her association with Shelter Now, she was a social worker with the Waco Independent School District. A Waco resident and member of Antioch Community Church, Curry, who turned 30 during her captivity, is originally from Tennessee.

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