On foot, on bicycles, some with dogs on leashes, about 14,000 people converged on Central Park for a memorial service Sunday to honor Diana, Princess of Wales.
It was the first such event in the park’s sprawling, wooded North Meadow since a memorial in 1980 for another British icon, John Lennon.
“More than anything, I came to say goodbye to someone who cared about the poor and needy, who was rich and privileged enough not to have to,” said Richard Thomson, 47, a Scottish-born New Yorker.
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Britain’s consul general in New York, Jeffrey Ling, headed the all-faith program that honored Diana for both her charity work and her sense of style.
“She disarmed us with her humility,” Giuliani said, mistakenly referring to the Princess of Wales as the Princess of York before the crowd’s murmuring led him to correct himself. “We were drawn to her ultimately because of her heart, not her nobility.”
Operatic divas Jessye Norman and Denyce Graves and the Metropolitan Opera chorus and orchestra performed music by Bach, Verdi and Berlioz.
“This is a nice send-off for her,” said Beth Anderson, 26, who had two fluffy white poodles in tow. “I didn’t go to her funeral in London, obviously, so it’s nice to have something in the city that people can go to.”
White madonna lilies, hydrangeas, magnolia blossoms and blue larkspur framed the outdoor stage.
Diana’s dedication to charitable causes was underscored by tributes from Dr. Margaret Haggerty, director of the AIDS pediatric unit at Harlem Hospital, and Sister Paula Marie, a member of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.