Southern California took its turn Saturday saying a formal farewell to Princess Diana, as an overflow crowd of nearly 1,000 mourners gathered at a Los Angeles church for eulogies to "the world's princess."
So much grief already had been expended--so much said, written, televised and analyzed since the princess' death two weeks ago--that Saturday's service turned to introspection about the meaning of the phenomenal, worldwide expression of sympathy.
"It would be easy to cynically dismiss the events of the past two weeks as just a lot of media uproar, or a kind of mass hysteria," the Rev. Kirk Smith told Mayor Richard Riordan, pop star Michael Jackson, actor Michael York and hundreds more at St. James Episcopal Church on Wilshire Boulevard. Instead, the rector said, there was "something holy at work" in the "greatest outpouring of love and goodwill in modern time." Millions were fulfilling a spiritual longing for "reaffirmation of the qualities of beauty, grace and compassion."
"We are here this afternoon, not because the fairy tale is over, but because the story has just begun," Smith said, citing reports of huge donations to the charities supported by the princess.
British Consul General Merrick Baker-Bates, who wanted the service after receiving hundreds of requests from English expatriates in Los Angeles, said it was a great tribute that many Americans had joined the crowd, which at one point stretched nearly two blocks.
"I don't think it's worship of her celebrity," he said. "It's . . . her example. It's a legacy of self-sacrifice."
Baker-Bates said more than 20 books bearing about 4,000 messages have been collected by the British Consulate in Los Angeles.
Several mourners explained that the media saturation of Diana's death and funeral all had seemed too remote. "It may seem a little after the fact, but [joining the service] was just something I needed to do, to fulfill myself," said Dianne Tully of Cerritos.