Prayer, scripture-reading and talk of the Almighty resounded as Americans stood together on the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks on America.
At the Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania, a Navy tenor’s voice wafted clear the words of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in the morning stillness: “In the beauty of the lilies, Christ was born across the sea … as He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free”
The classic hymn “Amazing Grace,” written by a repentant slave trader more than a century ago praising God for saving “a wretch like me,’ was offered by choirs, bands and soloists at all three sites.
At Ground Zero in New York, President Barack Obama and former Mayor Rudy Guiliani both read from the Bible.
Obama read Psalm 46, which speaks of perseverance: “The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved. He uttered His voice. The earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear.”
George W. Bush gave Obama a quick nod of solidarity, then read of sacrifice from a letter written by President Abraham Lincoln to a mother who lost five sons in the Civil War – including a heart-felt prayer:
“I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”
Current Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had banned any clergy from the Ground Zero ceremonies and had ignored pleas and written petitions to include the Almighty in the observance, quoted Shakespeare.
Obama also services at the Pentagon and outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where United flight 93 was brought down as passengers tackled hijackers be intent on flying it into the White House or U.S. Capitol.
At the Pentagon, Obama placed a wreath at a memorial where each of 184 victims is remembered with a bench and small reflecting pool and greeted visitors while a military band played “Amazing Grace”.
In New York, Candy Glazer, whose husband, Edmund, had called her for a cheerful goodbye before take-off on the plane that ultimately crashed into the Trade Centre’s north tower, said: “May your soul finally rest in peace. Your son Nathan and I, as the years go by, grow strong. Goodbye, my dear friend, my teacher and my hero.”
“Many attendees openly wept,” reported Michael Bowman, reporting for the Voice of America. “The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, acknowledged the pain that lingers 10 years after the attacks.
“No music can assuage, no tongue can express,” Mullen said, “no prayer alone may dampen the yearning. Lives ended in this place. Dreams were shattered.”
Giuliani asked for God’s blessing on all those lost and left behind. “God bless every soul that we lost,” he prayed. “God bless the family members who have to endure that loss, and God guide us to our reunion in Heaven, and God bless the United States of America.”