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Sunday, 23 September, 2001, 20:37 GMT 21:37 UK
US offers prayers for the dead
Oprah Winfrey and religious leaders
Oprah Winfrey (right) leads the multi-faith ceremony
Tens of thousands of people have gathered for a memorial service in New York for the friends and families of the World Trade Center victims.

The multi-faith event, called "A Prayer For America", is being held at the New York Yankees baseball stadium in the Bronx.

Up to 26,000 of the 60,000 free tickets on offer have been reserved for the families of workers and rescuers who died in the terror attacks of 11 September.

More than 6,300 people are still missing, presumed dead, in the collapsed twin towers, including some 350 firefighters and police officers.

Our lives have been shaken but we Americans refuse to be shattered.

Oprah Winfrey

Actor James Earl Jones addressed the crowd, saying: "Today we offer a prayer for America.

"Twelve days ago New York City suffered the most devastating attack of terrorism in human history.

"In response our nation is united as never before. We are united not only in our grief but in our resolve to build a better world."

'Love lives'

Talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who is leading the ceremony, said: "We each come here as one but we stand here as thousands.

"Our lives have been shaken but we Americans refuse to be shattered.

"Hope lives, prayer lives, love lives."

Also attending the service were former president Bill Clinton and New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Sikh mourners
People of many different religions are at the event
Mr Giuliani described the events of 11 September as "our darkest day".

But he added: "It is up to us to make it our finest hour."

He praised the actions of New York emergency workers, to rapturous applause from the crowd.

At the stadium, countless friends and relatives of those missing held photographs of their loved ones.

Among the mourners was Judith Cruz, a friend of Isaiah Rivera, a CBS News technician who was on the 110th floor of the World Trade Center.

She said: "The reason we're here today is that we just want to be with everyone in the family and share with them, you know, the pain."

Change of venue

Originally planned for Central Park, the venue was changed amid concerns police would not have been able to cope with the numbers of people who would want to attend.

Mr Giuliani said a mass memorial service would be planned for a later date, when police were less overstretched.

Although the Yankees stadium has a capacity of 57,500, extra seating is expected to be provided on the field.

Mariela Perez (right) and her mother Carmen
Mariela Perez (right) still waits for news of her brother, Angel
Bagpipers from the New York Police Department's Emerald Society band opened the ceremony.

Opera superstar Placido Domingo later sang "Ave Maria," while Hollywood diva Bette Midler was due to perform her inspirational anthem, "Wind Beneath My Wings."

The prayer service is being led by Cardinal Edward Egan, the Archbishop of New York, together with other Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders.

It is also being broadcast live to minor league baseball parks in Coney Island, Staten Island and Newark in New Jersey.

A ban on flights within three miles of major sporting events has also been extended by the Federal Aviation Authority, to cover the event.

The BBC's Ben Brown
"People have come together to grieve"
The BBC's Valerie Jones in New York
"There was a huge cheer as the city's mayor, Rudy Giuliani, entered the stadium"
See also:

23 Sep 01 | Americas
In pictures: A Prayer for America
20 Sep 01 | Americas
Manhattan's new homeless
16 Sep 01 | Americas
Nation united in grief
13 Sep 01 | Education
City schools re-open with counselling
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