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Thousands mourn at UK cathedral

Thousands stood outside the packed St Paul's for the service
Thousands stood outside the packed St Paul's for the service  

LONDON, England -- Britons and Americans stood shoulder to shoulder in grief during a sombre and emotional service of remembrance at St Paul's Cathedral in London on Friday.

U.S. Ambassador William Farish was joined by the Queen, the Prince of Wales, Prime Minister Tony Blair, former prime minister Margaret Thatcher and the Archbishops of Canterbury and York for Friday's service.

The toll of thousands from Tuesday's attacks includes at least 100 Britons, a figure that is expected to rise "to the middle hundreds," Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said.

As the 2,600-strong congregation filled the 17th century cathedral to capacity, several thousand others gathered outside to listen to the service being relayed on loud speakers.

Many struggled with their emotions as the congregation sang the U.S. national anthem -- the second time in two days it had been heard in an official capacity in London.

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Americans -- and many British people -- placed a hand on their hearts and sang the words, some with tears running down their cheeks. Lauren Willoughby, 17, an American student in London, lit a candle on behalf of the American people.

In the aftermath of Tuesday's attacks in New York and Washington, the Queen spoke of being stunned into "disbelief and total shock."

Reflecting Britain's special relationship with the U.S., she ordered the U.S. national anthem to be played at the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace on Thursday.

With fears rising that up to one in 10 of the some 5,000 victims, mostly in New York, may be British, the monarch wanted to share in the palpable sense of grief that has gripped the country.

The memorial service at St Paul's Cathedral in London was the country's biggest outpouring of national grief since Princess Diana was killed in a 1997 Paris car crash.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey, condemning what he called "a senseless evil," urged people to pray for the leaders of America as they considered how to respond to the attacks.

He said during his address: "Like millions of others I watched in horror as the towers of the World Trade Center disappeared under a cloud of dust and smoke. A modern icon of America had been reduced to rubble.

"I am hopeful for the people of America: hopeful that as ruins are rebuilt, so also a shaken people will be restored.

"For, as the twin towers of the World Trade Centre disappeared amid the smoke and carnage, across a short stretch of water another, older, American icon was not submerged.

"The September morning sun continued to shine on the Statue of Liberty, her torch raised like a beacon -- a beacon of hope -- and to millions around the world, a symbol of all that is best about America."

Blair arrived at the cathedral from an emergency debate at the House of Commons, where he mourned "a tragedy of epoch-making proportions."

An hour before the start of the midday service, traffic in London had ground to a standstill as the great bell of Big Ben, struck 11 a.m. (1000 GMT).

Along with millions across Europe and the world, MPs in emergency session stood in silence.


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