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Thousands Of New Yorkers Pay Tribute To Mandela At Special Service

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As the world celebrates the life of Nelson Mandela, everyone from pastors to politicians honored the anti-Apartheid leader at a ceremony in Brooklyn on Sunday. Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report

The flag outside the Christian Cultural Center in East New York was flying at half staff Sunday, but inside spirits were high.

This was not a congregation mourning the loss of a hero, it was a community celebrating the life of a leader.

More than 3,000 people attended the event.

“He brought people to a different level, to a much higher level of living and understanding,” said one attendee.

“He forgive. And I think that's what we need in the world today. People to learn to forgive when people do them bad,” said a second.

Forgiveness, a word spoken over and over by those remembering the anti-Apartheid leader who went from prisoner to president of South Africa.

“He understood that forgiveness was not just giving a gift to those who injured you, but forgiveness is also freeing yourself from the burden of sins perpetrated against you,” said Rev. A. R. Bernard.

Among those who shared their memories, Rev. Al Sharpton and Sen. Charles Schumer.

“He didn't lead by force. No guns. No violence,” Schumer said. “He led by moral majesty and when you lead by moral majesty he walls come tumbling down.”

Many recalled Mandela’s visit to New York City in 1990, including Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who said the loss of the former leader is personal for his family.

His wife was an early anti-Apartheid activist and he was working for Mayor David Dinkins during Mandelas rally at Yankee stadium.

“It was an electric world changing moment,” de Blasio said.

Speaking to the crowd, he said today was a day to memorialize but “tomorrow we start living out the lessons of Nelson Mandela.”

"Another lesson of course of Mandela is not to accept unacceptable conditions. And that certainly inspires me in terms of addressing inequality,” said Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio.

And all those who attended the ceremony on Saturday say Mandela's legacy will live on for generations.

“I think the most important thing is not to give up and to keep that faith and that hope,” said a third attendee.

“I'm to proud to even have lived through in his lifetime and to experience something like that,” said a fourth. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP