Hymns and red roses at the Yankee stadium as New York honours heroes

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First the "Battle Hymn of the Republic", then "The Star Spangled Banner", then a chant of "USA! ... USA!" For the thousands who gathered at New York's Yankee Stadium yesterday for a memorial service to the victims of the terrorist attacks, the mood was one of defiance.

Called "A Prayer for America", the event was the latest, biggest and most symbolic of the services held since the atrocities. Except this one had a palpable feeling of being not only for those who had already died, but for the dead of the war to come. The mood was martial, the readings and speeches full of references to how the events had united America and how the country was ready to fight back and protect itself.

The service, attended by 60,000 people, came on a day when a corner was turned. Flags returned to full-mast and the Federal Aviation Authority said it was largely lifting a ban on the flying of private aircraft. However, the aviation authority ordered a three-mile "no-fly zone" around the stadium.

The message was one of rebuilding and protecting America. Speaker after speaker, from Oprah Winfrey to Mayor Rudi Giuliani to leaders from most major religions, stressed the strength which New York and the US had gained from its diversity and how this must be guarded from intolerance. Those who carried out the attacks did not believe in this diversity of faiths and races, said Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Sikh and Hindu clerics to an applauding crowd.

Yankee Stadium in the Bronx is as much a part of New York as the World Trade Centre once was. During times of trouble the people go there to forget their problems. Yesterday, they went to remember those lost. The green field of the baseball diamond, with a Stars and Stripes in the middle, glittered on a sunny autumn day.There were dozens of bouquets around the edges of the field and many in the crowd carried red roses.

In one corner of the field a monument to the great baseball heroes of America ­ Babe Ruth and Joe Di Maggio ­ was used as a backdrop to honour the heroes of ground zero, the fire fighters, police officers and other rescue workers. Rapturous applause greeted the survivors as they paraded under service and national flags.

The tenor Placido Domingo sang "Ave Maria" and Bette Midler "The Wind Beneath My Wings", their voices echoing around a silent stadium. Both received standing ovations.

New York's departing mayor was very much the star. Mr Giuliani, arms around the city's fire and police chiefs, told of the "miracle" of St Paul's. The oldest chapel in New York, built in 1756, survived despite being in the shadow of the twin towers. "When the towers fell, a dozen modern buildings were badly damaged. But the chapel stood without so much as a broken window," he said. "September 11 was the most horrific day in our history. We shall make it our finest hour. The twin towers which once crowned our skyline no longer stand. But our skyline will stand again."

The Mayor spoke of the great heroism of the rescue workers and emergency services, many of whom lost their lives.