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Silent streets as London remembers

By CNN's Mark Davies

LONDON, England -- Outside the American church on one of London's busiest streets, the only sound was the wind rustling through the trees.

Tottenham Court Road, usually a chaotic jumble of roaring traffic and a mass of pedestrians, came to a halt as London joined the rest of Europe for a three-minute silence to remember those who died in the terrorist outrages in New York and Washington.

Since Tuesday's attacks shook the world, the American Church has become a focal point for U.S. citizens living in London or in the UK on holiday.

On Friday, candles flickered next to the Stars and Stripes as hundreds of people packed the church to pray and to join the three-minute silence.

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Outside, on the broad pavements usually filled with rushing shoppers, workers and tourists, a small crowd gathered at the entrance to the church as the street fell eerily silent.

A police officer stared at the ground as a clock chimed 11 a.m. on his radio. The pale sun filtered through the trees as the wind rustled the leaves above him.

Around him, pedestrians drew up and stopped, checking their watches.

Some mourners held back their tears, staring grimly into space. Others were unable to contain their grief, their red eyes betraying the raw emotion of the last few days.

Some young American women hugged as they wept. Others held their heads in their hands.

Buses, taxis and cars pulled up to join the ceremony as police closed off the road, while shops closed their doors to show solidarity with those who have lost loved ones.

A scene usually so full of noise fell totally silent, with only the occasional buzz of a policeman's radio breaking the calm.

It was a scene repeated across Europe. In Edinburgh, workers put up an American flag at the city's castle and about 200 tourists gathered around it to observe the silence.

In London, Members of Parliament stood in silence during an emergency debate on the U.S. attacks.

From Germany to Greece, television stations switched to religious ceremonies or broadcast black screens.

In Paris, the Republican Guard played "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the Elysee Palace after the three-minute silence.

In Brussels, there were ceremonies at the headquarters of the NATO military alliance and among officials of the European Union.

In the Scottish town of Lockerbie, where 270 died when a plane was blown out of the sky in December 1988, the town hall bell tolled to signal the start of the ceremony. And outside St Paul's Cathedral in London, ahead of a special service to remember the dead, thousands stood in silence, burying their heads in their hands or dabbing tears from their eyes.

Back at the American Church, which has been made a house of prayer since the tragedy struck, a quiet line of people queued to sign a book of condolence as the moment of silence ended.

Traffic began to rumble down the street once more. Shops re-opened, pedestrians went back to their business.

But as the scene returned to its more familiar sight, others remained at the church -- perhaps clinging to a part of what feels like home, but knowing that home may never be the same again.


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