CHICAGO -- Chicago actor Gary Sinise welcomed the crowd at Daley Plaza at noon on Wednesday, recognizing the joint purpose of the gathering in remembrance of the events of Sept. 11 2001 and the lives lost in the attacks.
In a ceremony that was meant to be simple, in what was less than a half-hour, organizers relied on written words and recognizable music to bring Chicagoans together in the solemn event.
Sinise introduced the synchronized 12:03 p.m. ringing of church bells throughout the city, quoting John Donne in saying, "All mankind is of one author and is one volume. When one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language, and every chapter must be translated. No man is an island, entire of itself. Any man's death diminished me, because I am involved in mankind and therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee."
Three minutes of silent reflection were observed, one minute for each of the sites struck by terrorists that day. A rendition of "Amazing Grace," presented by members of the Bank One Choir, followed the silence.
Sinise introduced fellow Chicago actors, who shared readings appropriate to the ceremony. Goodman Theatre actor Henry Godenas read from William Wordsworth's "Intimations of Immortality," and Steppenwolf Theatre's Martha Levy read "In Retrospect," by Maya Angelou.
The Chicago Symphony's soloist Elizabeth Norman presented "If I Can Help Somebody," singing "If I can help somebody along my way, then my life will not be in vain."
An ecumenical group of local religious leaders then shared the reading of the "Chicago Prayer of Hope, Unity and Remembrance," a prayer written by leaders of the city's faith community.
"May our remembrance move us towards humility and justice," they said in unison.
An excerpt from the inaugural address of President Theodore Roosevelt was read by Chicago actor, E. Milton Wheeler.
"We wish peace, but we wish peace of justice, of righteousness. We wish it because we think it is right, and not because we are afraid," Roosevelt was quoted as saying.
Norman returned to the stage to present a powerful rendition of "America, The Beautiful." As the song built to a climax, Norman was joined by the Bank One Choir and members of the crowd.
In closing, Sinise thanked the guests, corporate leaders from companies which suffered losses on Sept. 11, and the crowd.
Referring to an archway of flowers which appeared over the main stage of the event, Sinese said that there was a flower representing a victim of that day. He quoted British poet Laurence Binyon's work, "The Fallen," saying "They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember them."
"On behalf of everyone," Sinese said, "we wish you peace."
View video from ceremonies earlier today from around the country:
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