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Prayer service: 'We shall not be moved'

Bette Midler sang
Bette Midler sang "Wind Beneath My Wings" at Sunday's "Prayer for America" at New York's Yankee Stadium.  

By Porter Anderson

(CNN) -- One of several emotional high points in Sunday's "Prayer for America" service at New York's Yankee Stadium followed Bette Midler's singing of "Wind Beneath My Wings."

The singer and actress -- after finishing the song in the afternoon sunlight of the field and yelling "I love you, New York City" -- ran over to be closer to the audience, blowing kisses from a blue-carpeted runway to victims, family members, friends, colleagues and rescue workers of the World Trade Center attacks of September 11.

Earlier, tenor Placido Domingo's singing of "Ave Maria" had led to a similarly poignant moment. The hymn, it was announced by host Oprah Winfrey, is a favorite of New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose arrival at the podium drew many members of the audience to their feet in applause.

"Now we understand much more clearly," Giuliani told the crowd, "why people from all over the world want to come to New York and to America. It's called freedom."

New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani :
New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani : "A little miracle."  

In the first large-scale and formally staged program offered in memory of those killed or missing and presumed dead in the terrorist assault on the twin towers, Giuliani once again praised the rescue and response personnel who converged on downtown Manhattan in an effort to save lives. They will, he said, "occupy a permanent and sacred place in our history and in our hearts."

Giuliani used the survival of St. Paul's Chapel -- built in pre-Revolutionary times and standing today not far from the World Trade Center site -- as an example of survival despite centuries of adversity. Describing the Great Seal of the United States represented in the chapel, the mayor reminded the crowd of its slogan -- "E pluribus unum," or "Out of many, one."

"St. Paul's Chapel stands -- without so much as a broken window," Giuliani said, terming this a "little miracle."

The Boys and Girls Choir of Harlem took the stage in "Lift Every Voice and Sing." The power and smart tempo of that hymn was followed by a graceful, melancholy singing of "We Shall Overcome" with its lyrics drawing hearty cheers: "We are not afraid. ... Deep in our hearts, we do believe that we are not afraid today. We shall live in peace."

The service, a short time later, was given over to an Adhan call to prayer from the Muezzin, Brother Abdul Wali Y. Shaheed. The haunting solo was translated by Sister Zaimah Sabree and Masjid Malcolm Shabazz of Harlem: "God is all-knowing and is well acquainted with all things. ... Be just. That is next to piety."

"We are Muslims, but we are Americans," said Imam Izak-El M. Pasha, a chaplain with the New York Police Department, at the conclusion of a meditation on the burdens felt by many Muslim Americans during the crisis.

The Presentation of Colors was led by United States Navy Adm. Robert Natter, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, with the New York City Inter-Agency Uniformed Color Guard and the Port Authority of New York and Jew Jersey Joint Military Guard. The national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," was sung by New York police officers Danny Rodriguez and Ann Marie Maloney and Sgt. Kim Royster.

Their rendition set off chants of "USA! USA!" in the stands among the victims, survivors, friends, family members and colleagues affected by the assault of 12 days ago.

At a few minutes after the 3 p.m. EDT scheduled start time of the service, former United States President Bill Clinton and his wife, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, entered the stadium to adamant applause, with New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Cardinal Edward Egan and Rabbi Arthur Schneier -- whose "prayer for the country" followed a Blowing of the Shofar, the ram's horn used to announce major events in Jewish life.

And the service got underway in earnest with the Amor-Artis Chorus and Orchestra performing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." During the familiar anthem, the dignitaries -- including ranking clergy of the Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Sikh and Hindu faiths -- took their positions on a large center-field podium.

Attendance at the stadium in the Bronx was strikingly short of capacity. Commentators pointed out that the weather was very good Sunday afternoon -- and that many friends and family members still may be too bereaved to attend the service comfortably.

Originally Central Park had been talked about as the proper place for Sunday's service. Giuliani, however, made the determination that the great park at the heart of Manhattan wasn't necessarily appropriate or secure enough for such a sensitive gathering.

A prelude to Sunday's "Prayer for America" service at Yankee Stadium had been led off with "Amazing Grace" played by New York Police Department bagpipers, many of them wiping tears between phrases of the music. Tenor Ronan Tynan followed the pipers, as did a gospel ensemble in an elegiac performance of "God Be With You 'Til We Meet Again."

"Our spirit is unbroken. In fact, it is stronger than ever." Actor James Earl Jones drew quick applause from the crowd as he opened the service. "Today we reaffirm our faith in the essential dignity of every individual," Jones said. "What we share as Americans and as human beings is far greater than what divides us."

Jones introduced the program's host, Winfrey, who told the crowd, "Every story we have heard pains us so much because we know that their stories are our stories. .... We shall not be moved."

Some stability is coming to the grim numbers -- if not to the wreckage in the World Trade Center site at which workers continue to probe the wreckage, in fast-fading hopes of finding survivors. Giuliani's figure has held for two days: His estimate is that some 6,333 people are missing and presumed dead.

New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik says the latest figures show 261 confirmed dead, 194 of whom have been identified, he said. Thirty-nine are members of the uniformed services, including 34 firefighters. The most recently offered tally of injured is 6,408.

The death toll at the Pentagon is 189 including the 64 people who died on American Airline Flight 77.

Earlier in the weekend, reflections and reactions to the attacks of September 11 were incorporated into more traditional programs. When the 51 Miss America contestants voted 34-to-17 to go forward with their show, the entertainment was revamped to include fund-raising appeals for the Sept. 11th Fund, a charity set up after the attacks.

A live telecast, "America: A Tribute to Heroes," was carried on Friday by at least 27 broadcast and cable media, with a lineup that included Mariah Carey, Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Tom Cruise, Bruce Springsteen and Robert De Niro.

Oprah Winfrey served as host for the prayer service, telling the crowd:
Oprah Winfrey served as host for the prayer service, telling the crowd: "We shall not be moved."  

The Associated Press reports that this was the lowest-grossing weekend of the year for films, the top draw, Keanu Reeves' "Hardball," pulling $8.2 million in its second weekend. Total grosses of some $44.2 million were about 7 percent less than the same weekend's draw last year, and represented a 15-percent drop from the previous weekend.

"Let not one single life have passed in vain," Winfrey said at the close of Sunday's service, before handing off to Archbishop Demetrious of the Greek Orthodox Church of America for a benediction. "What really matters is who you love and how you love."

• American Red Cross
• Federal Emergency Management Agency

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