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U.S.: Americans Pray For Victims Of Terror

  • Frank Csongos

Washington, 15 September 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Americans paid tribute to the victims of the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil, with President George W. Bush and four former presidents worshipping together in a moving ceremony at the National Cathedral in Washington.

Bush told the gathering that America is a peaceful nation but fierce when stirred to anger. He said:

"Our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil."

Bush said the conflict was begun in timing and terms of others but will end in a way and at an hour of America's choosing.

An estimated 5,000 perished in suicide attacks on Tuesday at the World Trade Center in New York and the Defense Department building in Washington.

At the National Cathedral, Bush was joined by former Presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush (senior), Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. Also attending were members of Congress, Cabinet members and clergy of all major faiths.

The ailing Reverend Billy Graham, the noted evangelist, made a rare public appearance. He told the somber audience that God cares about all his children, whatever their religion. He said the spirit of America will not be defeated.

The Reverend Jane Holmes Dixon, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, spoke about love triumphing over hatred.

"Those of us who are gathered here, Muslim, Jew, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu, all people of faith, want to say to this nation and to the world that love is stronger than hate and that love lived out in justice will in the end prevail."

A Muslim was among the clergy who spoke. Arab-Americans and Muslims have been targets of a few revenge assaults around the country since Tuesday's terrorist attack.

The Reverend Nathan Baxter, dean of the Washington National Cathedral, spoke about the sorrow overwhelming millions of Americans.

"Today we gather to be reassured that God hears the lamenting and bitter weeping of Mother America because so many of her children are 'no more.'"

President George W. Bush spoke last. When he returned to his chair, his father, former President Bush reached out and squeezed his hand. Both men were holding back tears.