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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS

Healing for Atlanta, Young Begins With Keeping Faith

July 28, 1996|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ATLANTA — I love everybody, I love everybody, I love everybody in my heart.

You can't make me doubt him, you can't make me doubt him, you can't make me doubt him in my heart.

Because I know too much about him, know too much about him, know too much about him in my heart.

--Andrew Young, singing Saturday at a prayer service

*

Andrew Young's voice rang out loud and clear Saturday in Central United Methodist Church at a prayer service arranged in the wake of the bombing at Centennial Olympic Park.

The surprise appearance by the former mayor and one-time United Nations ambassador served a dual purpose at the buoyant multicultural gathering of Atlanta's religious leaders and civic-minded citizens.

Young, 64, traveled to the famous church--founded in 1868 and moved to its current site on Mitchell Street in 1928--to gain and give sustenance.

"These are the saints of Atlanta," said Young of the assembly. "I came to them for inspiration. I really didn't intend to say anything. Most of the folks I have known since the early days of the civil rights movement. We've been through a lot of tragedy together--and to see that they're still faithful. . . ."

There was the Rev. Joseph Lowery, 73, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who recently negotiated multimillion-dollar agreements with Publix Supermarkets and Shoney's restaurants to hire African-American vendors and managers.

He spoke and he sang.

So did the Rev. Joanna Adams, senior pastor at Trinity Presbyterian, who played a pivotal role in getting Young to address the city's homeless problems during his two terms as Atlanta's mayor.

Benno D. Patterson spoke on behalf of the chaplains who have been leading prayer groups among the athletes in the Olympic village.

Others stood and spoke, and sometimes cried. One woman, who did not give her name, earnestly addressed the gathering, holding herbs in her hand as she talked about the virtue of parsley, "the symbol of new life."

By the end of the 90-minute service, Lowery had a cluster of parsley, lavender and rue, another herb, in his hands.

Young, who was once thrown in jail in the late '60s for trying to organize Atlanta workers, said he had been running the gamut of emotions since he learned of the bombing.

"Let me say my reaction last night was almost complete despair and numbness," said Young, a leading member of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. "But my reaction this morning is joy, because when I got to the World Congress Center, it was crowded. When I walked around the Omni, people were there looking at volleyball.

"When I looked at the stadium, on TV, the people said, 'We're not going to let this turn this around.' The Games are going on.

"We terribly regret anyone should feel the need to do something this savage and brutal. People ought to be punished for things like this. And they ought to be caught."

Young himself had been at Centennial Park the previous night to listen to country music star Travis Tritt. He remembered watching the youngsters sitting on the grass, and marveled a day later that more weren't hurt, saying the efficiency of law enforcement and security helped minimize injuries.

"I will remember the black man helping the white police officer, propping his head against the bench," Young said. "I will remember people helping each other out of the park. I will remember the efficient way the hospitals and the nurses and the emergency vehicles showed up and got things through.

"Just like I remember the sweeping up the trash. We're going to have some trash around, but we'll do our best to clean it up."

Young theorized that the bombing wasn't "particularly political."

"I think the speculation is that it is somebody from around here who is pretty disaffected and alienated from the rest of us," he said. "Somehow, the American Dream has left them by. The American Dream is big enough in this Southland to include everybody. We tried to do that in our opening ceremonies. We tried to demonstrate to the world that everybody has a place and we respect people in spite of their differences. We can disagree without being disagreeable.

"That message didn't quite get to everybody."

Does he think the Games are forever tarnished?

"You remember Munich for the incident," Young said. "But nobody's ever forgotten Mark Spitz and nobody has ever forgotten Olga Korbut. There are always the athletes--the little girl winning the gold medal on one foot is the image most people will take from this."

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