Despite New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s effort to make the 9/11 memorial free of religion, President Obama captured the nation Sunday by reading Psalm 46 in his address at the memorial service.
The scripture begins with, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” (NIV).
Nearly 3,000 people died during the terrorist attack in New York City. The names of those who perished were read aloud by relatives of the victims before several moments of silence were observed. The Bell of Hope, which hangs near Ground Zero in St. Paul’s Chapel, sounded the first observance at 8:46 a.m., which marks when the first airplane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.
Obama finished the scripture saying, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani also quoted the Bible in his memorial address. Giuliani read from Ecclesiastes 3:1-9, which begins, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
The former mayor ended by saying, “God bless every soul that we lost. God bless the family members who have to endure that loss, and God guide us to our reunion in Heaven, and God bless the United States of America.”
Former President George W. Bush read from the “Bixby Letter” written by Abraham Lincoln in 1864 to a mother who lost five sons in the Civil War.
The letter states, “I pray that our heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”
Bloomberg chose to ban clergy at the 10th anniversary memorial service, saying the event was designed to focus on 9/11 victims and their families.
“Rather than have disagreements over which religious leaders participate, we would like to keep the focus of our commemoration ceremony on the family members of those who died,” said Evelyn Erskine, a Bloomberg spokeswoman, according to CBS New York.
Bloomberg avoided referencing God and chose to quote Shakespeare saying, “Let us not measure our sorrow by their worth, for then it will have no end.”
Although religious leaders were not invited to the 9/11 memorial service, the City approved only one public prayer service at Ground Zero, which was held Sept 10.