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A YEAR AFTER

Despite the Date, 'Life Goes On'

Amid Ceremonies and Remembrances, Some Make Time to Shop, Fly and Surf

September 12, 2002|SEEMA MEHTA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As thousands around Southern California gathered Wednesday to mark the first anniversary of 9/11, others chose to ignore--or defy--fears of another attack by spending the day at presumed terrorist targets such as Disneyland.

Many even boarded airliners, the weapons used a year ago in terror attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

"I picked today on purpose to show support for our country and to show that [the terrorists] don't scare me," said Betsy Beloud of Auburn, Calif., who wore a stars-and-stripes ribbon Wednesday at John Wayne Airport. "There's going to be so many prayers today that I feel safer than I did when I flew in."

Though figures were unavailable, officials at John Wayne said passenger volume was well below normal for this time of year. Lines were practically nonexistent at the ticket counters, which were strewn with American flags and red, white and blue bouquets.

Beloud, flying back to Sacramento after a visit with a friend in Downey, said her husband had qualms about her flying home on Sept. 11. They called each other daily while Beloud was away and made a point of talking Wednesday morning before she headed to the airport. "I told him I loved him and I would see him at 4:20," she said.

Traffic was also sparse at Los Angeles International Airport, although officials said it wasn't down much more than it would typically be on a Wednesday after Labor Day. Still, about 110,000 travelers chose, on the first anniversary of the skyjackings, to use the only commercial airport in the nation that has been openly targeted by terrorists. Many said they believed traveling on Sept. 11 would be safer, pointing to beefed-up airport security mandated by federal legislation passed in the wake of the terrorist attacks.

"We're not going to let them get to us," said heart valve salesman Chris Romeo, 43, who flew to LAX from Newark International Airport on Wednesday morning. "My family was more nervous than I was."

At Disneyland, another location often mentioned as a potential terrorist target, some visitors conceded apprehension about visiting on the anniversary.

"I was scared to go today," Cicily Fleming of Stockton said. "But it's my vacation and we can't stop our lives and stop having fun. Because if we did out of fear and panic, then the terrorists have gotten the best of us."

Eyeing her two young children seated next to her, Fleming added: "And I feel happy being here today, because my kids are happy."

At San Onofre State Beach, in the shadow of the San Onofre nuclear power plant, surfers were more concerned with high waves kicked up by the tail end of a Baja hurricane than with terrorist attacks. The plant has greatly increased security in the last year.

"I'm hardly celebrating today, but life goes on," said surfer Mike Lisch of San Juan Capistrano, who works at the plant as an equipment operator. "I'm glad I have the opportunity to do this."

The anniversary was also on the minds of visitors to sites infrequently named as potential terrorist targets.

Guests waiting to enter SeaWorld in San Diego cheered as employees hoisted the flag and the National Anthem was played on loudspeakers following a moment of silence.

"That was really something," spokesman Bob Tucker said. "You could hear a pin drop for a full minute throughout the park, and then we heard a large cheer from our guests outside. It was a nice feeling."

Shoppers at South Coast Plaza found distraction at the massive Costa Mesa mall.

"I think the terrorists really want to scare us so we would change the way we live our lives," said Jonathan Stamboli, 23. "I'm treating today like any other day. What's the point of being scared?"

Mike St. Agne, 21, visited the mall to avoid the onslaught of anniversary coverage.

"I knew today would be all about Sept. 11, and I didn't want to turn on the TV. You're constantly bombarded with the repeat of events over and over again, as if the people's pain were being exploited. It's overkill. I feel numb to it," said the Upland resident. "I didn't want to get depressed over the repeat of events all over again. I don't want to have to think about it."

*

Times staff writers Bonnie Harris, Vivian LeTran, Jennifer Oldham and Dave McKibben contributed to this report.

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