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Thousands gather for service at Ground Zero

NEW YORK (CNN) -- This city mourned its dead Sunday beneath a cool, bright autumn sky in a memorial ceremony for the more than 4,600 killed or missing in the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center.

Thousands of family members gathered at the disaster scene to mourn those killed when hijacked airliners took down the landmark twin towers.

Many waved American flags and clutched pictures of the loved ones they lost. Others wiped away tears. The crowd appeared to be larger than the 2,000 expected.

Behind the crowd, the rubble of the twin towers still smoldered nearly seven weeks after the attacks. Recovery work, which has been going nearly round-the-clock since then, stopped for the memorial service.

"It's terrible," said a tearful Mickey Giovinazo, whose son is among the missing. "I know my son is dead, so I want to be here."

VIDEO
Family members of victims gather at Ground Zero for a memorial service. CNN's Brian Palmer reports (October 28)

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The 55-minute interdenominational service included a rendition of the national anthem by New York police officer Daniel Rodriguez, a performance of Samuel Barber's solemn "Adagio for Strings" and a rendition of "Ave Maria" by operatic tenor Andrea Bocelli.

Cardinal Edward Egan, Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, spoke of the victims whose futures were "snuffed out" by hate-filled villains.

"We have lost parents, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, husbands and wives," said Cardinal Edward Egan, Roman Catholic archbishop of New York.

"They were innocent and they were brutally, viciously, unjustly taken from us .... They were good and wholesome sons and daughters of God whose lives and future were snuffed out by villains filled with violence and hate."

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik of Congregation Mount Sinai in Brooklyn Heights suggested that after September 11 the country had become "the reunited states of America."

"We the people of many faiths have become we the people of one family," Potasnik said.

"We weep here today, but we will walk from here today to show that death may conquer life, but death will not conquer our love."

Other speakers included the Rev. Franklin Graham and Muslim leader Imam Izak-el Mu'eed Pasha of New York's historic Malcolm Shabazz mosque.

"Let us, as religious leaders, stand firm together and not let the differences split us apart," Pasha said. "We're one human family."

Graham saluted the hundreds of firefighters, police officers and rescue workers who lost their lives in the disaster.

"We will not forget their valiant effort that they made in saving the lives of thousands of people," he said. "We will not forget the personal sacrifice that they have made in the line of duty for their city, their nation and their fellow man."

Ground Zero
Somber faces dotted the crowd at the Ground Zero service.  

Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber played piano as Irish soloist Shonagh Daly sang Webber's composition, "Let Us Love in Peace," accompanied by St. Luke's Orchestra.

The service closed with Metropolitan Opera soprano Renee Fleming leading the crowd in singing "God Bless America"; earlier she sang "Amazing Grace."

Many people who attended the service got their first close-up look at the disaster site, where firefighters continued to hose down hot spots amid the rubble.

Some in the crowd wore breathing masks to protect themselves against the fumes.

"They haven't recovered anything of my father yet," one woman said. "Just to look at the destruction and know that he's somewhere in there is very difficult."

Her mother said she felt so shaky she nearly passed out but didn't regret being there to remember her husband.

"I had to be here, I had to be close," she said. "I had to breathe that air in and fill my lungs up with him and everybody else that's lost."

Many New York leaders attended but did not speak, including Mayor Rudy Giuliani, New York Gov. George Pataki and U.S. Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer.

According to the mayor's office, 4,167 people remain missing. Of the 506 bodies recovered, 454 have been identified.

Work was halted at the site for only the second time since the disaster. The first time was October 11 for a moment of silence one month after the attack.



 
 
 
 



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