"How do we speak words of peace and forgiveness and mercy to those among us who have lost?" she said. "We don't speak easy words at this time. What we do is listen. Listen to the stories. We are called to sit alongside these people."

That includes Muslims, Swain added. One Muslim woman she spoke to has been "reviled and spit on" since Tuesday, she said. "She lost her father, brother and son in the World Trade Center."

Death, she said, was not the worst thing that can happen. "The worst thing that can happen is that we could carry on the violence, and we could carry it to people who are innocent," she said.

At mosques around New York, Muslims prayed for the safety of America.

Mohamed Gemealia, the imam, or head priest of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York, held vigils yesterday to pray for the victims.

"We've reminded the Muslim community of the tolerance and peace that our religion guides us to do," said Gemealia, who has 1,500 members in his mosque and was concerned it would be a target of violence. He called the attack on the World Trade Center "barbaric behavior."

"Civilized people do not behave like that," he said. "A lot of Arab-Americans are good citizens. In the eyes of Allah, if you hurt and kill one soul or human being it is worse than destroying the whole universe. It is forbidden totally to harm any human being."

Outside of New York City, scores of bedroom communities in Connecticut, places such as Greenwich, Stamford, Norwalk, Ridgefield, Westport and Fairfield, have been affected by the devastation in New York.

At St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church in Fairfield, about an hour outside Manhattan, the carillon pealed "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" as parishioners left a packed 11 a.m. service yesterday.

"The minister gave a moving sermon about how we all need to pull together," said Janet Almeida, 54, a nurse and mother of three. "One of my son's soccer mates from Staples High School in Westport [a neighboring town] went down in the towers with his brother. There's three kids in that family, and two of them are gone. And one of my daughter's bridesmaids, her husband went down in the tower, too. ... It's very sad, very sad."

Priests and ministers in churches in New Jersey -- some of which were in view of the smoke -- called for prayer, calm, and, in some cases, for just retribution.

Prayers for leaders

Some church leaders also urged parishioners to pray for President Bush and other U.S. leaders.

"We must concentrate on those who lost their lives and for those who are injured, said the Rev. John S. Antao, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima, a Roman Catholic Church in Elizabeth, N.J. "But we must pray a lot for our leaders. It won't be easy to make the right decision, and the whole world will be affected."

In Harlem, at the Greater Refuge Temple, the mood was almost defiant as at least 1,000 people sang, danced and prayed, thanking God to be alive. Someone announced that they were still looking for one congregant, last seen on the 97th floor of Tower One -- the north tower -- of the World Trade Center.

Corey Thompson, 22, came to Greater Refuge yesterday, sometimes standing and clapping, but mostly sitting quietly. He had never been to church before.

"I just felt it was time," he said. Thompson worked as a security guard at the World Trade Center but was on the night shift, and so left just before the attacks.

"I have a lot to be thankful for," he said softly.

Being at church helped him feel better, he said. Before he placed a $5 bill into the collection basket, he wrote on it, "Thank you God, for life."

Sun staff writers Jim Haner and Holly Selby contributed to this article.