The nationally televised event, which was part secular and part religious, included many celebrities. Oprah Winfrey acted as master of ceremonies for the service, saying at one point, "when you lose a loved one you gain an angel whose name you know...[On Sept. 11], 6,000 angels were added to the spiritual roster."
Many cried when Bette Midler sang the line "Did you ever know that you're my hero?" from her song "Wind Beneath My Wings. " The crowd also participated, saying patriotic prayers, singing along to "God Bless America" and "America the Beautiful," and chanting "USA! USA!" afterward.
And when opera singer Placido Domingo sang the hymn "Ava Maria" the crowd was hushed.
Also in attendance was New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who said the service was "beautiful." And among those who struck chords with the crowd was Rev. Calvin Butts from New York's historic Abyssinian Baptist Church, who gave an inspirational sermon.
"We are not afraid today. Get back on the airplanes. Get back to work. Rebuild America. We are not afraid today. Together we will get through it because we are the United States of America."
The city had printed 55,000 tickets and originally wanted to keep the service open only to the families of the victims. However, about an hour before the event began, the general public was invited to attend when organizers realized they had plenty of seating.
"I got a feeling of how we all have got capacity to share, to love, to feel sympathy. I'm just hoping it will continue," Betty Robinson, a 50-year-old paralegal told The Associated Press.