LUBEC – Nothing was typical Sunday at Lubec Congregational Christian Church.
To begin with, the congregation was bigger than usual. The Rev. Edwin Randall said that normally they have between 20 and 25 people at their services. On Sunday, they had roughly 60.
More important, Robert and Jacqueline Norton were not there.
Robert Norton, 85, was a deacon in the church for 44 years. Jacqueline Norton, his 61-year-old wife, had been the church clerk.
Sunday’s service was the first at the church since the couple died Tuesday when their hijacked plane was deliberately crashed into one of the towers at the World Trade Center in New York City. They had flown to Boston from Bangor that morning, and were on their way to California to the wedding of Jacqueline’s 38-year-old son, Jason Seymour.
To the casual stranger, the service may have seemed typical.
Some of the parishioners smiled at each other and shared brief jokes as they filed into the sanctuary. The nine-member choir sat where it always does, to the right of the organ and facing out toward the curved wooden pews where the Nortons had sat last week.
Randall gave his sermon from the same pulpit, leading the people as they prayed in the large second-story sky-blue painted room.
There was little direct mention of the Nortons during the service. But for their friends and relatives, the absence was obvious, despite the larger crowd.
“It doesn’t seem right, that they won’t be here,” said Sidney Maker before the service got under way. Maker, 85, had shared ushering and collection duties at the church with Robert Norton for the past four decades. “To see that Tuesday morning … .” He did not finish his sentence.
There were no eulogies during the service for the Nortons, who married in 1993. Many people in Lubec initially confronted their emotions over the tragedy Wednesday night when the church held an open prayer vigil. Randall estimated 200 people from several different congregations were there.
The minister pointed out during the service that American Airlines, on whose plane the Nortons were flying when they died, sent a bouquet of flowers. Leona MacBride, the church treasurer, read to the congregation a letter from a church in Gardiner sending condolences.
Randall, speaking after the service, said he has been the pastor of the church for just six months, and that the Nortons had helped him acclimate to his new surroundings.
“She was just such a positive person,” he said. Jackie Norton had helped the pastor update the church bulletin on the church’s computer. Robert Norton had given him a book of quotes by legendary Yankees catcher Yogi Berra in an effort to inspire more humor in his sermons, he said.
MacBride said Robert Norton had energy to match his spirit. Only three weeks ago, he had helped repoint the concrete steps at the church’s back entrance, she said.
Evelyn Randall, the pastor’s wife, said some good must come out of Tuesday’s horrific events.
“Man did this. God didn’t,” she said. “Bob and Jackie knew that. They would never blame God.”
After the service, friends of the Nortons stopped by the couple’s modest waterfront home on Johnson Street. Sam, their 6-year-old golden retriever, barked inside as people gazed at the flowers placed in the front yard and peered at a window with pictures of the Nortons taped on the inside.
Greg Giggie, the caretaker for the Nortons’ home, said that a formal memorial service for the couple has not yet been scheduled. Giggie, 53, said he and Sam still were getting used to the idea of the Nortons not coming home.
“They were like family,” he said. “I had Thanksgiving here. I had Christmas here. We had adopted one another.” Giggie added that some might have considered the Nortons to be an elderly couple, but that they were energetic, positive people.
“He was going and doing all the time. She was as active as any 40-year-old,” Giggie said. “I didn’t really realize how attached I had grown to them until they were gone,” he added. “I never met anybody like them. They were my best friends.”
Neighbor Julie Keene said Jacqueline had befriended several teen-age girls in the area. The girls occasionally visited the Nortons at their home and attended some services at the church with them, she said.
“Jackie had a tremendous impact on their lives,” Keene said. “The children loved them.”
Giggie, who is taking care of Sam now, said if he was younger, he would go help find the perpetrators of Tuesday’s attacks in New York and on the Pentagon, even if he knew he would never come back.
“I feel sorry for the other people, too,” he added. “It must be hell.”