Thousands Fill Yankee Stadium To Pray For WTC Victims
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Offering prayers from Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism, thousands of relatives, rescue workers and government leaders attended a service in Yankee Stadium Sunday afternoon to honor the victims of the World Trade Center disaster.
The three-hour, multi-faith, multi-language service, called "A Prayer for America," also featured music, speeches and words of comfort from various religious and government leaders and entertainers.
Bette Midler sang "Wing Beneath My Wings," Lee Greenwood belted out, "God Bless the USA," Placido Domingo sang "Ave Maria," and Marc Anthony led the crowd in "America the Beautiful." Dozens of spirituals leaders from all different religions and denominations said prayers, read scripture and sang hymns.
Among the many local political leaders in attendance were Senator Chuck Schumer, Senator Hillary Clinton, former President Bill Clinton and former mayors Ed Koch and David Dinkins.
The event was hosted by talk show personality Oprah Winfrey, who opened by saying, "What was meant to divide us has drawn us together."
"We pray today that from the ashes of the Trade Center, the Pentagon and that field in Pennsylvania," she continued, "there will rise a spirit of beauty and unity in our country, creating a new tapestry of one heart, one hope, one voice - one America."
From patriotic songs and uplifting speeches to somber hymns and sad words of remembrance, the alternating cheers and tears Sunday followed the mood of mixed emotions among many Americans in the last two weeks. Several speakers praised that sense of unity and pride that has swept the country as a way to cope with the national grief.
The service was organized for those directly affected by the tragedy of September 11, specifically the rescue workers and the family members of the more than 6,000 people who died or have been missing since the twin towers were crumpled by two hijacked airliners.
It was originally limited to those most directly impacted, but some people who showed up without tickets were still admitted because there were a number empty seats left. The speeches and prayers were also broadcast live to crowds in the minor league baseball stadiums in Brooklyn and Staten Island, as well as to a national audience over several news networks.
New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani - whom Winfrey remarked has been called "America's mayor" for his universally-praised leadership after the attack - redirected the day's loudest and longest applause from himself to the police and fire commissioners and the Office of Emergency Management director, and to all the men and women they represent.
Giuliani said the firefighters, police officers and EMTs who rushed into the collapsing buildings to save strangers are the "best example of love we have in our society." He called the victims who worked in the towers "quiet heroes" for supporting their families and pursuing their dreams.
The mayor also praised the response of the city and nation to the tragedy, saying, "In the days since this attack, we have met the worst of humanity with the best of humanity."
Giuliani promised New York City will be rebuilt, agreeing with sentiments the city is changed forever because, he said, it will be better than ever. "The proud twin towers that once crowned our famous skyline no longer stand," the mayor said. "But our skyline will rise again."
When he announced the event, the mayor had emphasized that is was a prayer service and not a memorial. Only 291 bodies have been recovered from the World Trade Center rubble, with 6,333 people considered missing.