From Manhattan to Montauk, members of the clergy reached out to offer spiritual solace and words of comfort as the area searched for answers to Tuesday's terrorist attacks in Manhattan and Washington, D.C.
The area's faithful filed into churches, mosques and synagogues, murmuring prayers of hope for missing loved ones and those who are presumed dead. Hundreds who fled Tower One paused in knee-deep rubble, then began praying and weeping when a second explosion rocked the second tower of the World Trade Center.
In lower Manhattan, the scene of the morning's mayhem, clergy moved gingerly among the smouldering rubble and the wounded to deliver last rites. Several Manhattan churches flung open their doors and beckoned those who stumbled dazed and covered in soot and dust inside.
"Refreshments, food, restrooms. Anyone need, they're inside!" bellowed a man outside the Mariners Temple Baptist Church on Henry Street, gesturing to the passing throngs, many of them holding gas masks to their faces. "You can come inside, sit down and wait, there's plenty of room."
Many organizations planned vigils through the week, and religious leaders urged their congregations to donate blood, food and clothing to those in need.
The hardest part, though, was explaining Tuesday's events to congregants. Many religious leaders were reeling from the day's tragedies themselves.
"This is one of the vilest days of villainy in modern history," said Rabbi Ronald Androphy, president of the Long Island Board of Rabbis. "We've witnessed the most heinous and despicable acts of human depravity since the holocaust."
Rabbi Marc Gellman, president of the New York Board of Rabbis, added that religious communities across the country must now speak out against the hatred displayed during Tuesday's attacks.
"This is like Pearl Harbor," Gellman said. "It shows that hatred can not be confined any more than a fire can be contained."
Cardinal Edward Egan, like many other religious leaders, spent the day administering the sacraments and visiting the wounded. During the 5:30 Mass, he addressed the day's events.
"We call for justice," he said. "We insist that those who have committed this crime be called before the courts of civilized people. We must not, however, allow our pursuit of justice to descend into sentiments of hate and retaliation."
Al-Haaj Ghazi Khankan, president of the National Council on Islamic Relations, said Tuesday's tragedy is shared by Americans of all spiritual walks.
"We condemn the atrocious acts of terrorism and we send our condolences to the victim's families," Khankan said. "We pray God will save those who have been injured."
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