Fans brought flowers, candles and their own bittersweet memories Thursday as they gathered to mark the day 25 years ago when John Lennon was murdered.

"With the country at war, his work and philosophy seem more poignant and more desperately needed than ever," said Kim Polson, who said she fell in love with the Beatles when she saw them on television at age 8.

She was an early morning visitor to Strawberry Fields, the section of Central Park just outside the Dakota apartment building where Lennon was gunned down by a deranged fan on Dec. 8, 1980.

Several dozen people had gathered by midmorning, some local residents, some tourists. One woman sat with scrapbook she had assembled over the years. Among the floral offerings were a half-dozen white roses and a bough of holly.

On that night 25 years ago, Lennon — who had just turned 40 — was returning from a midtown Manhattan recording studio with his wife, Yoko Ono. In an instant, Mark David Chapman, a fan carrying a copy of J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye," opened fire on Lennon. Police officers put the mortally wounded singer in the back of a squad car, but shortly after arriving at the hospital, Lennon was dead.

Tom Leighton, one of the organizers of an ad-hoc memorial committee, said people attend the vigil for different personal reasons, but "primarily it's to pay our respects and share our grief collectively."

Fans hold a moment of silence at 10:50 p.m. — the time he was shot — and again at 11:15 p.m. — the time he is believed to have died. Despite protests, city officials planned to close the park at 1 a.m., as they have for several years.

Polson, who lives a block from the Dakota, recalled seeing Lennon in a coffee shop four months before he was killed. She stuck around to listen to him talk to a colleague.

"I came to the office two hours late that morning and my boss was furious, so I said, 'Ask me why I'm late.' When I told him, he was no longer angry."

"I'll be late for work again today. John Lennon made me late again," she said.

Chapman remains in New York's Attica state prison, where his third request for parole was denied in October.