Those who spoke were New Yorkers ranging from Roman Catholic CardinalEdward Egan to the chaplains who minister daily to police andfirefighters coping with the Sept. 11 terror attacks. "We Muslims, Americans, stand today with a heavy weight on our shoulderthat those who would dare do such dastardly acts claim our faith,'' saidImam Izak-el M. Pasha, a Muslim police chaplain, enunciating a religiousand patriotic theme that permeated the service.
The carefully balanced religious roster also included leaders of localHindu and Sikh temples, black and white Protestant pastors, Armenian andGreek Orthodox archbishops, and male and female Jewish rabbis. The master of ceremonies was television's Oprah Winfrey, who added a NewAge touch, saying, ``When you lose a loved one you gain an angel whosename you know.'' On Sept. 11, she said, ''6,000 angels were added to thespiritual roster.''
Among the emotional high points was a sermon by the Rev. Calvin Buttsfrom New York's historic Abyssinian Baptist Church. ``We are not afraidtoday,'' he said. ``Get back on the airplanes. Get back to work. RebuildAmerica. We are not afraid today. Together we will get through itbecause we are the United States of America.''
Priscilla Schoch, a Red Cross volunteer from Westminster, California,said, ``each piece of my heart came together as each person spoke.'' In between the prayers and inspirational songs, there were patrioticsing-a-longs like ``God Bless America'' and ``America the Beautiful.''
``It was a beautiful service,'' Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said afterward. He dismissed questions about possibly being disappointed at the size ofthe crowd. No attendance figure was provided, but the crowd onlyhalf-filled Yankee Stadium.
The city had printed 55,000 tickets and made them available on a limitedbasis because organizers said they chiefly wanted the service to beattended by relatives of those killed or injured in the twin towerattacks and rescue workers. About an hour before the event began, the general public was invited toattend when it became apparent there would be plenty of seats available.
Many cried when Bette Midler sang the line, ``Did you ever know thatyou're my hero?'' from ``Wind Beneath My Wings.'' Most waved theAmerican flags they received on the way into the stadium during LeeGreenwood's rousing ``God Bless the USA'' and chanted ``USA! USA!''afterward. Many also were hushed as they listened to opera singer Placido Domingosing ``Ave Maria.'' "I got a feeling of how we all have got capacity to share, to love, tofeel sympathy. I'm just hoping it will continue,'' said Betty Robinson,a 50-year-old paralegal.