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Near ground zero, bell rings for victims

The Rev. Canon Anne Mallonee rang the Bell of Hope yesterday at St. Paul's Chapel, near ground zero, after a prayer service dedicated to victims of Thursday's London terrorist bombings.
The Rev. Canon Anne Mallonee rang the Bell of Hope yesterday at St. Paul's Chapel, near ground zero, after a prayer service dedicated to victims of Thursday's London terrorist bombings. (Getty Images Photo / Mario Tama)

NEW YORK -- The bell that was a gift from the people of London after the 2001 terrorist attack rang again yesterday in a chapel near ground zero, this time with New Yorkers mourning those who died in Britain.

The world's latest terrorism victims were remembered at St. Paul's Chapel, which served as a sanctuary for rescue workers after the World Trade Center assault.

The 5-foot, 650-pound bell, known as the Bell of Hope, was given to New Yorkers on Sept. 11, 2002. It was cast by London's Whitechapel Bell Foundry, which also cast the Liberty Bell and London's Big Ben.

Yesterday, it tolled four times -- once for each explosion in London on Thursday -- and then tolled continually for one minute in memory of the victims.

Peter Ashplant and his wife, visiting New York from Birmingham, England, were among about 100 people who attended the service at the chapel, which started with a prayer for British victims.

Ashplant said his son was on a London subway at the King's Cross station just minutes before the explosion there. He said his son was safe.

''It seemed right to pray for the victims here overlooking ground zero," Ashplant said.

St. Paul's withstood the collapse of the twin towers nearby and became a haven for rescue workers. Last year, a permanent Web-interactive exhibit opened inside the church, offering people a way to join painful memories with today's feelings.

On Sept. 11, 2001, the collapsing World Trade Center felled a giant sycamore in St. Paul's churchyard, missing the tombstones and the church itself, then shielding the chapel from the still-falling debris. Pennsylvania sculptor Steve Tobin is now creating a memorial using the tree stump and its roots, as a symbol of endurance.

Earlier yesterday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a condolence book at the British consulate in New York. ''All New Yorkers' prayers are with our friends in Britain," he wrote.

Standing alongside British Consul-General Sir Philip Thomas, Bloomberg said city buildings would fly the American flag at half-staff to honor those killed in the attacks. Bloomberg also promised any help the city could provide in the investigation.

''It's a great time for us, together, to show the world the true mettle of our leadership," he said.

Thomas noted that London and New York share a tragic tie.

''Of course, it does remind us of the terrible moment of 9/11," he said. ''As in New York, we're determined that the terrorists won't win."

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