With somber prayers and patriotic hymns, the nation paused for a day of remembrance Friday, led by President Bush and four former presidents who worshipped together at the National Cathedral in Washington.
Bush wove in messages of America's resolve to fight terrorism while honoring the heroes of this week: the firefighters who lost their lives at the World Trade Center; the passengers who resolved to battle the hijackers on one jet; the volunteers who raced to New York to help treat burn victims.
"Just three days removed from these events, Americans do not yet have the distance of history," Bush said. "But our responsibility to history is already clear, to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil."
Bush was joined by former Presidents Clinton, Bush, Carter and Ford, along with members of Congress and cabinet members. Billy Graham, an octogenarian now struggling with Parkinson's disease, delivered a sermon.
"Today, we say to those who masterminded this cruel plot and to those who carried it out, the spirit of this nation will not be defeated by their twisted and diabolical schemes," Graham said.
Graham said the nation must choose whether to "implode and disintegrate" or become stronger and rebuild.
A Muslim cleric was among the clergy who spoke. Arab-Americans and Muslims have been targets of revenge assaults around the country since Tuesday's destruction.
Before the service started and between readings and sermons, musicians performed "God Bless America" and sang "America the Beautiful" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Many in the congregation wept and held each other. The bells of the cathedral rang out as the service ended.
Around the country, Americans gathered for their own services.
Sheltered by umbrellas, a crowd of people clustered outside the entrance of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York at the noon hour, spilling onto the sidewalk. Two blocks north, a long line of people streamed into another church on Fifth Avenue.
In Richmond, Va., chapel doors of the First Baptist Church opened for prayers and solace as dawn broke on the national day of mourning Bush called.
"We will pray for our city, we will pray for our nation and we will pray for all the people whose lives have been lost," the Rev. Peter Jamer Flamming said.
Bush urged community groups and places of worships nationwide to hold noontime memorial services, ring bells and set aside time for candlelight vigils. He also encouraged employers to let their workers off to attend.
At a morning service in Connecticut, Gov. John Rowland spoke of a Roman Catholic priest he knew who died on United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston to Los Angeles, which crashed into the trade center.
Rowland called the Rev. Francis Grogan a friend and mentor, who encouraged the governor to deepen his faith and service his community. If Grogan were still here, he would ask us to be "persuaded by our better natures," Rowland said.
"With the heart of our nation bursting with sadness, we must ask God for the courage to carry on," he said.
Members of the Islamic Center of Long Island, stunned by the many revenge assaults on Muslims, will hold the second of three services for victims of the attacks on the trade center and the Pentagon. They also will collect donations for the American Red Cross.
"We're hurting, too, and we're also Americans," said Arshad Majid, a member of the center. "There were Muslim lives lost in that building, as well. We're all human and we need to get together."
Lama Surya Das of the Dzogchen Center, has planned a Buddhist service in Cambridge, Mass. The program will include the loving kindness/compassion meditation prayer and the six syllable jewel-in-the-lotus mantra.
"It's in memory of the victims and the sufferings of all and a plea not to perpetuate even more violence," Das said. "It's a plea for restraint, moderation and reason and healing and praying for peace."