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On September 23, thousands of people filed into New York City's Yankee Stadium, waving American flags and clutching photos of missing loved ones presumed dead 12 days after the terrorist attacks. The hope had faded for finding survivors at Ground Zero, the 2 million-ton pile of debris in lower Manhattan, and the victims' families and friends gathered together at this interfaith prayer service to mourn.

The program featured a hastily assembled jumble of Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, and Hindu clergy and musical performers like Bette Midler and the Harlem Boys & Girls Choir. The service was profoundly religious yet utterly pluralistic, and in Mayor Rudy Giuliani's mind there was really only one national personality who could serve as its host: her low, distinctive voice both comforted and inspired the bereaved.

"When you lose a loved one, you gain an angel whose name you know," said Oprah Winfrey. "Over 6,000, and counting, angels added to the spiritual roster these past two weeks. It is my prayer that they will keep us in their sight with a direct line to our hearts." After reminding mourners that "hope lives, prayer lives, love lives," she offered an affirmation tinged with challenge and benediction: "May we all leave this place and not let one single life have passed in vain. May we leave this place determined to now use every moment that we yet live to turn up the volume in our own lives, to create deeper meaning, to know what really matters."

Fast forward to Chicago a few weeks later. About 300 people are seated around a small wooden platform at Harpo Studios for a taping of The Oprah Show. The audience is mostly women, generally well coifed and well dressed. Gina, a chatty producer, takes the stage and explains that ...

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April 1, 2002

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