At a still-smoking ruin and in far-flung places still reeling from unthinkable acts, they stopped to mark a milestone yesterday: A month had passed since terrorists made their indelible mark.
At the World Trade Center, there was a moment of silence at 8:48 a.m., the time of the first attack Sept. 11. Workers at the mass grave paused from the cleanup duties, took off their helmets and joined arms. "Don't look at the terrorism over there, look at the heroism over here," said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, a Fire Department chaplain.
At St. Paul's Cathedral in London, British firefighters mourned their fallen brethren in New York. There was an interfaith commemorative service at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Cleveland ("My attitude is people need to find more hope," said 36-year-old Valeria Philmon) and a memorial Mass at Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
This was the way it was yesterday - groups of people coming together to remember something that is unforgettable, to commemorate the horrific events even as smoke continued to rise from the smoldering rubble of skyscrapers.
"The fire is still burning, but from it has emerged a stronger spirit," said New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, standing with the city's fire and police commissioners in front of a blackened building.
"Sometimes it feels like yesterday, sometimes it feels like a year ago or more," he said. The terrorists, he said, "attempted to break our spirit - instead they have emboldened it."
Fire Department bagpipers played "Amazing Grace" on instruments decorated with small American flags. Prayers were offered first for the 343 firefighters and 23 police officers lost in the attack, and then for all the dead. So far, there are 422 confirmed dead and 4,815 listed as missing at the World Trade Center. In addition, 157 people were killed on the two jets that crashed into the twin towers.
It was a brief service, just 15 minutes long; the idling engines of the heavy construction machinery could be heard in the background. The 23rd Psalm was read, and prayers were offered. At the end, the bagpipes played "America the Beautiful."
Everywhere, there were memorials of different sorts. Restaurants nationwide pledged to give part of the day's proceeds to funds for the victims. In addition to those killed in New York, there were 125 people inside the Pentagon and 64 on the American Airlines jet that crashed into it and 44 on board the hijacked United Airlines plane that crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pa.
At Boston's Logan International Airport, United and American employees began a monthlong "flag run" to Los Angeles, symbolically completing the planned flight paths of the two jets that were hijacked out of Logan and crashed into the trade center. Employees have lined up 1,400 volunteers to relay an American flag cross country, running 24 hours a day. It is scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles on Nov. 11, Veterans Day.
"This is a beautiful day for a beautiful cause. How could I say no?" said Curt Detzer, an American Airlines pilot and one of the first runners.
In Denver, hundreds gathered for a service organized by the United flight attendants union to honor co-workers who were killed.
The bells in Denver's City and County Building were rung for one minute. And second-graders at Westgate Elementary School were constructing a 65-by-90-foot American flag from 6,000 paper squares on the school's playground.
Each square represents a life lost on Sept. 11. Some are decorated - there are drawings and messages from these children of the Denver suburb of Lakewood.
One square says: "We hope that our country will not be hurt anymore."