Flags flew everywhere, and as much of the city turned out for the annual Thanksgiving parade, work continued in the south end of Manhattan, at the still-smoldering disaster site that used to be the World Trade Center.
Mayor Rudy Giuliani began the day volunteering at a charity that delivers meals to the housebound and then participated in the parade.
The crowd chanted "Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!" as Giuliani boarded a float with Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen, Office of Emergency Management director Richard Sheirer and Yankees Manager Joe Torre.
The float featured a 13-foot Big Apple, replicas of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings, and a police officer singing "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Following the parade, the New York mayor joined rescue workers at Ground Zero to thank them and to share a special noontime Thanksgiving meal.
"I know it's hard and it's very difficult because they all want to be with their families," Giuliani said. "And at the same time, there are so many families that have hope that we'll be able to find the remains of their loved ones."
Workers took time out to eat turkey and salmon dinners offered by the Red Cross in a second-floor banquet room in a nearby Marriott hotel still under repair from damage in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Red Cross volunteer Terri Chmurak said it was "the best place I could think of to be on Thanksgiving."
Security was tight, as it has been throughout the city since the terrorist attacks.
"This year, we have again been working with NYPD as well as state and federal law enforcement agencies to put in place the appropriate security plan to ensure the safest and most secure parade," Macy's spokesman Orlando Veras said.
As for the parade, many traditions remained while several changes were made to reflect the nation's mood.
For years, the gobbler has led the annual ritual down Broadway, but organizers of the extravaganza changed the lead float. The "Tribute to America" featured a replica of the Statue of Liberty surrounded by midshipmen from the Merchant Marine Academy of New York waving 50 state flags and 50 American flags. Broadway star Betty Buckley sang "America the Beautiful."
To honor the more than 350 police and firefighters who died when the twin towers collapsed as they were trying to rescue people trapped in the buildings, a troop of children of New York City firefighters and policemen also marched at the head of the lineup.
Macy's organizers this year added five new balloons to the brigade of veteran gargantuan balloons that are a hallmark of the spectacle, including Curious George, a creation of children's authors Margret and H.A. Rey, and a new 63-foot rendition of Sesame Street's Big Brd.
Viewers lined the 2.5 mile parade route on Thanksgiving morning, at a time of heightened security in the city. But Macy's officials said the store never considered canceling the November parade.
"Everyone's life has changed," said John Piper, who is designing and constructing the parade's balloons.
Patriotism was also the theme at Detroit's 75th Thanksgiving parade, and there were other reminders of the war on terrorism: More officers patrolled the parade route and there were extra security checkpoints. The use of propellants, propane and thrown items like candy were banned.
Thousands of people gathered to gawk at floats and celebrities, but the real stars were the police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians who carried a 30-foot-by-60-foot American flag, accompanied by Lee Greenwood singing his hit, "God Bless the U.S.A."
In Philadelphia, Miss America Katie Harman sang "America the Beautiful" and a chorus of children led spectators in the pledge of allegiance to kick off the annual parade.
Cassie Lang, 13, of Philadelphia, wore an "I love N.Y." sweat shirt on the parade sidelines. Sue Timson of Lindenwald, N.J., wore an American flag scarf and brought her grandchildren, despite any worries about terrorist activity geared at holiday revelers.
"Even though we lost a lot on Sept. 11, we have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving maybe more so than usual," Timson said.
In an annual tradition, several hundred people in Plymouth, Mass., joined an American Indian group protesting what they called "racist mythology" surrounding the first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims in Plymouth in 1621.
Many spent the holiday preparing and delivering meals to people in need. Charities said the demand for Thanksgiving meals surpassed last year's as a downturn in the economy and thousands of layoffs took their toll.
Residents of Madison, Wis., chipped in with donations after hearing that the Atwood Community Center didn't have enough food to fill demand for its holiday baskets.
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