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Monday, 17 September, 2001, 08:40 GMT 09:40 UK
Hope amid the gloom
Cardinal Edward Egan addressed the overflow crowd
Cardinal Edward Egan addressed the crowd outside
Jonathan Duffy

Sunday was a chance for many New Yorkers to share their pain with God. But amid the gloom, they were told that there was cause for hope.

Faith has always been a natural retreat for those who are grieving and on Sunday evening St Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan became the focal point for thousands of mourners.

Overflow congregation
Those who couldn't get a pew listened outside
Some had queued for up to five hours to be sure of getting a pew inside the church, where a special service had been scheduled to commemorate the victims of Tuesday's terror attack.

But such is the strength of feeling in New York that by the time the service got underway, those who did make it through the cathedral doors were heavily outnumbered by the crowd outside.

For two hours, the stretch of up-market Fifth Avenue that St Patrick's fronts onto became an extension of the church.

Crash barriers were erected to contain the crowd and loudspeakers carried the prayers of Cardinal Edward Egan to the street.

St Patrick's Cathedral
The cathedral stands amid Manhattan's skyscrapers
At the south end of Fifth, in the distance but still clearly visible, loomed a reminder of what had brought everyone together on this warm evening - the cloud of smoke that still billows from where the World Trade Center once stood.

Before Sunday, most of the remembrance services for those killed and injured in the Trade Center had been impromptu affairs.

But the Holy Day represented a chance for New York's Christian community to try and share their pain before God.

'Drawn to come here'

For some, like Beverly Miller, it was a chance to get away from the wall-to-wall television coverage of events.

Greg Packer
Greg Packer holds a missing person flyer
"I hadn't planned to come to the cathedral. I was sitting at home watching the same pictures of the towers on fire and collapsing, and I felt drawn to come here."

Others, like Greg Packer, who is at the very front of the queue, would never normally set foot in a Catholic cathedral.

"I'm of the Jewish faith. The Jewish New Year is this week but it doesn't mean anything to me this time. There is too much else to think about."

He holds a flyer with the face of a woman who has been missing since Tuesday - just one of the thousands thought to have been killed in the terror strikes.

"I don't know her but I just got given it by her husband. Every chance I've had I've shown it to people."

Last phone call

A little further down the line stands Monica Iken. She also has a missing person flyer, of her husband Michael. They were married last year and had been due to celebrate their first wedding anniversary in October.

Monica Iken
Monica Iken's husband worked in the twin towers
Michael, 37, telephoned his wife to say he was okay when the first of the twin Trade Towers was hit - he was in the other one. His office was evacuated and some of his colleagues got out alive, but Michael probably stayed back to help someone, says Monica.

Monica remains composed. She was baptised at St Patrick's and graduated there and her faith tells her that Michael is still alive.

"You break down and then you get your strength back. I'm taking sedatives to help calm me," she says.

Monica and her friends and family file into the church shortly afterwards. They join a congregation that includes United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, Senator Joe Lieberman and New York's mayor, Rudy Giuliani.

Nun with order of service and rose
A nun clutches the order of service and a rose
Despite the gloom, Cardinal Egan's sermon uplifts the crowd.

Rounds of applause greet his praise for the city's police, fire and ambulance crews who were among the first on the scene on Tuesday morning, and whose personnel figure heavily in the death toll.


We have seen New York at its best, we have seen the best of New York at its best

Cardinal Egan
"This past week you and I and all of greater New York have seen evil up close. Men and women were killed by faceless criminals and we were stunned and confused," says the priest.

"We were not however shaken. Rather, the best of us donned hard hats and workmen's clothes and forced ourselves to deal with this horror as decent human beings.

"We have seen New York at its best. We have seen the best of New York at its best. And we have seen New Jersey, Connecticut and the rest of the nation coming to the aid of New York at their best.

"I would like to thank our police officers, our fire fighters, our emergency workers and our health care professionals."

Woman with flag
Patriotic feeling was strong among the congregation
They are stirring words for the congregation, yet for one worshipper at the steps of the Cathedral, it is all too much. Her wails of grief pierce the respectful silence and she collapses.

Help is close by in the form of two ambulances. When they roll up outside the church a few minutes later to tend to the emergency, it is to the sound of spontaneous and sustained applause from the city's appreciative public.

Clearly New Yorkers still believe they have something for which to be thankful.

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See also:

17 Sep 01 | Americas
In pictures: New York mourns
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