If Philadelphia were a city at peace, it might sound as it did at 12:09 p.m. yesterday, when hundreds of police officers, two dozen religious leaders, and the family of slain police Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski observed a moment of silence at the steps of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.
Peace is the sound of the Swann Fountain splashing in the distance. It's the sound of a breeze sighing in locust and gingko trees. It's passing cars, fluttering flags, and the music of finches and mockingbirds at play.
That solemn minute of silence followed an hour-long interfaith prayer service inside the cathedral "for peace and healing in our community."
The service also marked the close to the city's 30 days of official observance of Liczbinski's shooting May 3. Nevertheless, Mayor Nutter told the crowd of about 1,000 people that "we will all continue to mourn and remember the sacrifices made by one of our finest."
Sponsored by the Religious Leaders' Council of Greater Philadelphia and the Mayor's Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, the event brought Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim and Buddhist leaders from around the region to the altar of the Catholic cathedral.
"Only by changing hearts can we live in true, lasting peace," Cardinal Justin Rigali told the gathering.
It was at the cathedral, on an unseasonably cold and rainswept May 9, that nearly 2,000 police, family and admirers gathered for the Funeral Mass for Liczbinski, shot to death while attempting to apprehend an armed bank robber.
The most moving moment of yesterday's hour-long service came early, when Nutter and Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey presented Liczbinski's widow and three children with the American flag that had flown at half-staff above City Hall in his honor.
Nutter called it the city's "visual commitment to being in mourning."
"When you look at it, know the city has stood with you and will stand with you as you go forward," he said. After presenting Michele Liczbinski with the folded flag, he and Ramsey hugged and shook hands with the family.
Many of the pews were filled with the blue shirts of rank-and-file police and the white shirts of senior officers. Facing them from the altar sat the region's religious leaders, all dressed in the robes of their faiths.
These included three rabbis and a cantor in yarmulke and tallis; imams in
, or skullcaps; a Buddhist monk in a saffron-colored robe; an Orthodox priest in his white
, or tall, round hat; Episcopal Bishop Allen Bartlett in a scarlet-and-white choir robe; and other Protestant clergy in Sunday vestments.
Most took turns leading the prayers, which were interspersed with hymns of peace.
Imam Anwar Muhaimin, a co-convener of the Religious Leaders Council, recited in Arabic a portion of the Qur'an: "If anyone slays a human being . . . it shall be as though he had slain all of mankind," it said.
Later, in a prayer for peace, Rabbi David Straus and the Rev. Ellis Washington alternated in the reading of a litany.
"Some are tortured in body and mind," said Straus.
"Imbue them with peace and strength," said Washington.
Just before the close of the service, Nutter formally signed a pledge for peace that he urged all Philadelphians to take.
It includes a commitment to "eliminate the causes of hatred, to honor the dignity of all people, to lay down our weapons, and to find non-violent solutions when tempted to hurt another."
All then left the cathedral in formal procession to the strains of "America the Beautiful," and regathered on and before its steps for the minute of silence.
"It was a beautiful service. Very comforting," said Liczbinski's sister, Carol Gianni. "But while the city is observing the end of its mourning, ours will go on."