NEW YORK (AP) The House that Ruth Built became a house of prayer yesterday, as thousands assembled at Yankee Stadium for a somber interfaith service for the victims of terrorism.
“Today we offer a prayer for America,” said actor James Earl Jones, opening the ceremony.
“Our nation is united as never before. We are united not only in our grief, but also in our resolve to build a better world. At this service, we seek to summon what Abraham Lincoln called the “better angels of our nature.”
Security was heavy at the ballpark in the Bronx and the crowd filled about half the stadium. City officials had printed some 55,000 tickets, which were given out at limited locations. When it became apparent that so many seats were unfilled, the general public was invited in an hour before the service.
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was careful to call it a prayer service rather than a memorial service, insisting that hope was not lost for some of the 6,453 people missing the number was raised again yesterday in the wreckage of the World Trade Center.
No survivors have been pulled alive from the ruins since the day after the Sept. 11 disaster.
Hosts for the service were Jones and Oprah Winfrey. The program included prayers led by Cardinal Edward Egan and Imam Izak-El Pasha, and patriotic and inspirational songs led by Bette Midler, Placido Domingo and Lee Greenwood.
Political leaders, including former President Clinton and U.S. Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer, were also on hand. The crowd chanted “Rudy” when Giuliani walked to the podium set up near second base.
The American Red Cross handed out tissue packets to those arriving for the service. Several people held up signs with photographs of those missing in the Trade Center attack.
Representatives from a range of religions were evident in the crowd. A group of about 20 men in orange, red, white, blue and pink turbans carried a sign saying that Sikhs condemn terrorism.
Mourners arriving at Yankee Stadium before the service had to run a gantlet of police officers and state troopers checking tickets. No bags, backpacks or coolers were allowed. Police officers were stationed in the stadium”s light stanchions.
Small American flags and roses were distributed to worshippers as they arrived. The stadium was bedecked with flowers and red-white-and-blue bunting. The flags that had stood at half-staff since Sept. 11 were returned to the tops of their poles.
Mourners got cut-rate prices at the Yankee Stadium concession stands: Hot dogs normally selling for $3.75 at Yankee games cost $1. Sodas priced at $2.75 sold for $1. No beer was available.
Those who did make their way to the Bronx for the service said concerns about ticket availability may have kept others away, with many people assuming the event would be so popular it would be impossible to get in.
“I don”t think people knew where to get tickets,” said Ita Horan, a college administrator from Cresskill, N.J. “They thought they couldn”t get any.”
Abdur Rahim Muhammad, 55, said he came to the stadium from upstate Auburn yesterday as a show of “unity for all of the families that are suffering.” He sat in the stands yesterday with his wife and daughter, all dressed in Muslim robes.
He said that except for the “occasional dirty look,” he has not been given a hard time about his religious beliefs since the terrorist attacks.
“People have been surprisingly genial. … I”ve been very pleasantly surprised by that,” he said.