April 17, 2003 11:16 AM

Thousands of mourners turned out for Wednesday’s memorial service at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral for NBC News correspondent David Bloom, who died while covering the war in Iraq, the network reports.

Bloom, 39, the weekend anchor of “Today” and a former White House correspondent, died of an apparent blood clot April 6 while embedded with a military unit in Iraq.

“David was the Ernie Pyle of his generation,” said NBC anchor Tom Brokaw, 63, comparing his colleague to the legendary newspaperman who covered World War II and remembering Bloom’s “boyish enthusiasm.”

“David had a lot of great ideas — none better than the ‘Bloom-mobile,’ which transported him and transformed war reporting,” said Brokaw.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a stone’s throw from NBC headquarters, and New York’s archbishop, Cardinal Edward Egan, said during the service (parts of which were carried on MSNBC, CNN and Fox News Channel) that he recalled Bloom attending Sunday Mass there after his “Today” show duties.

Among those who attended were New York Gov. George Pataki, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, ABC anchorman Peter Jennings, CBS newsman Ed Bradley and much of NBC’s on-air staff, reports the Associated Press.

Hours before he died, according to a eulogy by Bloom’s older brother John, David wrote an e-mail to his wife, Melanie, saying the experience of covering the war had transformed him, leading him to realize that nothing mattered more than his relationship with her and their three daughters.

“Here I am, supposedly at the peak of professional success,” David wrote Melanie, “and I can frankly care less.”

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