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Mourners Gather for Final Farewell

Ground zero: Prayers, poetry mark event, which was organized for those who couldn't attend Thursday's official end to search.

June 03, 2002|ELIZABETH JENSEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — While Thursday marked the official end to New York's recovery efforts at the World Trade Center site, Sunday offered several hundred family members of the Sept. 11 victims a chance to say final goodbyes.

Jewish and Christian religious leaders, standing at a lectern covered with photographs of people killed in the terrorist attacks on the twin towers, led the crowd in a simple interfaith service of hymns, poetry and prayers.

A candle was lighted in memory of the victims, and nine white doves were released to soar over the gaping hole where the World Trade Center once stood.

The half-hour service was organized for family members who couldn't attend Thursday's end to the recovery efforts. That ceremony drew thousands of rescue workers, police and firefighters, as well as victims' relatives. Some criticized the decision to hold the ceremony on a weekday, when many had to be at work.

Sunday morning's service was a much more private affair. Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) were among the few officials who attended, but they didn't speak. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg was invited but declined to attend. "I don't want to politicize anything," he said Friday on his weekly radio show.

Of the 2,823 people killed in the New York attack, including those on the planes that crashed into the towers, just more than 1,100 have been identified by the medical examiner.

"I feel my niece is always going to be here," William Healey said. "They haven't found any remains, and we don't expect them to."

The search for remains is continuing at the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island, where truckloads of debris from the 16-acre site have been taken. DNA tests also are continuing on thousands of recovered body parts.

On Sunday, family members, some wearing suits but many more in shirt sleeves and baseball caps, held aloft photographs of loved ones as the ceremony began with what has become a familiar refrain in New York: bagpipers playing "Amazing Grace."

Four candles were lighted: one for those lost in the terrorist attacks; one for family members; one to thank the rescue workers, construction crews and volunteers; and a final one for peace.

After more hymns and a poem, the crowd, some of whom were in tears, sang "God Bless America." A blessing of the site and more prayers closed the ceremony.

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