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THE NATION | CELEBRATING FREEDOM

This 4th, 'More Awareness of What It's All About'

Holiday: Amid tightened security, New York pays tribute to Sept. 11, and displays across the U.S. go on as promised.

July 05, 2002|MICHELLE MUNN and KIM MURPHY | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

WASHINGTON -- Americans braved stifling heat and new terrorism warnings Thursday to celebrate the first Fourth of July since the Sept. 11 hijack attacks, as fireworks displays and small-town parades unfolded without major incident across the country.

Other than a shooting attack at Los Angeles International Airport that left three people dead, a heavy police presence at celebrations from Arizona to the national Mall helped provide a mainly safe holiday.

In New York, thousands gathered for Macy's Fourth of July fireworks show in lower Manhattan. The event was dedicated to American heroes and those who died Sept. 11. It featured 28,000 fireworks in a 90-minute ceremony near the Statue of Liberty. City officials urged residents to turn out in force for the pageantry, but they beefed up security to guard against a terrorist attack.

A flight ban to 10,000 feet was enforced over Manhattan, major highways were shut down near the event and bomb-sniffing dogs patrolled the scene.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday July 17, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 ..CF: Y 10 inches; 387 words Type of Material: Correction
Fourth of July--In a story about Fourth of July celebrations in Section A on July 5, police dogs at the South Pasadena Independence Day parade were not sniffing for explosives. They were participating in the parade.
*

In Seattle, police searched ice chests and picnic baskets as spectators filed into a lakeside park celebration. In Houston, police with dogs took the unusual step of conducting a predawn security sweep at two parks slated for Fourth of July festivities.

In Washington, the thermometer climbed to 99 degrees, the hottest Fourth of July since 1919. As the day wore on, the crowds grew, though attendance was believed to be lower than in previous years. There were minimal delays at security checkpoints throughout the evening, and police reported nothing out of the ordinary.

Fighter jets patrolled the skies, fences enclosed the Mall, security cameras panned for suspicious activity and a force of 2,000 officers, some wearing fluorescent yellow vests marked "police," milled through the crowd.

"We needed to be here after Sept. 11. It was the patriotic thing to do," said Donna Wagner, who came to the celebration with her husband, Walt.

"I am concerned about safety," added Sudeep Kumar, who brought his wife and 8-year-old daughter to the festivities. "But I think the security is good, and this is one of the safest areas. They're doing a great job to protect us. It's a little inconvenient, but I'm willing to go through that."

The fireworks over the Mall began shortly after 9 p.m., and the crowd oohed and aahed at the display. It began fairly traditionally but quickly escalated to include peace signs, smiley faces and three-dimensional pyrotechnics straight out of the special-effects shop.

Holly Shaffer, of Mar Vista, was in Washington for the annual convention of the Daughters of the American Revolution. "It was worth my while. It was wonderful.

"This was a safer place to be than Los Angeles today."

Except for the shooting in Los Angeles and a small plane that crashed into a crowd at San Dimas, the major casualties of the day appeared to be the fireworks injuries that plague July Fourth celebrations every year.

Yet the day unfolded with unease. The FBI issued a terrorist bulletin that included a warning that an individual with "terrorist ties" had downloaded information from a Web site about two U.S. football stadiums. But President Bush, dropping in on the mountain hamlet of Ripley, W.Va., before flying back for the capital's celebration, struck a determined tone.

"In the 226th year of our independence, we have seen that American patriotism is still a living faith. We love our country only more when she is threatened," Bush said.

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said the nation was prepared for anything. "Throughout America, local law enforcement agencies are exercising their discretion about how to beef up, step up preventive measures. It's visible for all to see."

On the Las Vegas Strip, thousands of people paid tribute by viewing the Sept. 11 memorial that wraps around a 150-foot-tall replica of the Statue of Liberty in front of the New York-New York Hotel & Casino. The wrought-iron fence in front of the statue was covered with hundreds of fire and police department T-shirts from around the country, many with prayers for the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

"We were on the World Trade Center observation deck on Sept. 2," said Bill Hooks of Fort Worth, "and today, we wanted to see this memorial. We're a little nervous about being here today, but you can't let terrorism stop you."

Show Low, Ariz.--evacuated in the path of a raging wildfire only days before--mounted its annual Fourth of July parade, with about 25,000 people crowding into the streets, waving flags and cheering. A young girl waved a "Thank you!" poster as a line of firetrucks blared sirens and flashed lights.

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