ST. PETERSBURG — As employees of Tampa International Airport struggled through their workdays in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Rev. Shields "Corky" Moore comforted them.
"Pray with us," they would tell him. "We're afraid to be here."
And he did. He listened to their worries, lightened the mood with a joke, offered a tissue or just rested an oversized hand on a shoulder.
Three years prior, the Rev. Moore had successfully lobbied for a chapel at the airport and served as its first volunteer chaplain.
He took pride in the room tucked in a corner of the third floor of the main terminal, between the shuttles to Airside F and the information desk.
The Rev. Moore, an ordained Baptist minister who founded the Tampa Airport Interfaith Chaplaincy, died Saturday of a heart attack, his family said. He was 82.
Getting the airport ministry off the ground took years of lobbying. The Rev. Moore got the idea while working as an airport limo driver. He attended meetings with chaplains at other airports and urged the airport authority to allow a similar program in Tampa. In 1998, he got his wish. The room with the stained glass window was one of the only places in the airport not reachable by the public address system.
It was called a chapel, as he had wanted — not a "quiet room," the preferred term early on.
Nonetheless, chaplains, both lay and ordained people who represented Christianity, Judaism and Islam, were to stay away from religious literature or the display of religious symbols, and to refrain from proselytizing.
The chapel provided travelers comfort.
"A lot of people traveling are traveling because something catastrophic has happened in their lives or the lives of their family members," said Joel Moore, 44, the Rev. Moore's son. "When those people lay over in an airport, (the chapel) gave them a resource."
When an elderly man died in an airport restroom, the Rev. Moore arranged for round-the-clock support for his widow. He conducted a memorial service for an airline employee who was murdered, and married a New Jersey couple at baggage claim where they had met.
"You never knew when you went to an airport what you were going to find," said Sue Moore, 77, the Rev. Moore's wife and the second chaplain to enter the program.
Born in Richmond, Va., the Rev. Moore moved to Tampa at age 13. He graduated from the University of Florida and the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
He met Sue in 1953, while serving as associate pastor at Riverside Baptist Church in Tampa. "He spent the evening telling me knock-knock jokes," his wife said.
The Rev. Moore worked for the Commission of Community Relations in Tampa and the Community Service Foundation in St. Petersburg. Along the way, he volunteered as the first chaplain for the city of Tampa's Fire Department.
He was the kind of father who could drag his family on spur-of-the-moment camping trips, cash in soda bottles for a drive-in movie and popcorn, or feed the family with his catch from a homemade cast net.
He served as an airport chaplain for a dozen years, slowing down only when his kidneys failed.
Around the chaplain's inception, the Rev. Moore put out a wooden book with plain white paper. He thought visitors might use it like a guest book, perhaps make notes about where they had come from or where they were headed.
Instead, they filled it with prayer requests.
At the Moores' home Tuesday, family members lugged two boxes stuffed with prayer requests from another room. They are written in English, Spanish, French, Arabic and Greek.
"Please protect my wife and daughter. Amen."
"Help my son to let go and let God."
"Please give me what I need, a second chance with my family, my children and my life. Give me the strength and courage to face adversity as I return home."
Sept. 11, 2001: "What a sad day for humanity."
Sept. 14, 2001: "God bless us all and keep us safe."
"Let there be peace on earth."
In the middle of that batch appears this note in an odd blue scrawl: "And when you shall hear of war and rumors of wars, don't be afraid."
His wife studied the entry and nodded her head.
It is the Rev. Moore's handwriting.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or [email protected]