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A Year After

Americans Mourn as One

Memorials: From firehouses to churches to fast-food restaurants--in loud and quiet gatherings--the nation pauses.

September 12, 2002|STEPHEN BRAUN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

On a bleak day clouded by mourning and memory, Americans marked the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks by gathering Wednesday for solemn public rites that revealed the nation's undiminished grief.

From the thousands who marched down into the scarred pit of New York's ground zero and up to the newly renovated walls of the Pentagon, to the tiny crowds who attended a firehouse ceremony in Coventry, Ohio, and hundreds of other memorials across the country, Americans paid respects to the 3,025 who died and recalled a devastating day that echoed a year later with fresh warnings of new terrorism.

"I came to show my solidarity," said Lori Konrad, a USAir flight attendant who joined President Bush and 5,000 mourners on a wind-rippled oat field near Shanksville, Pa., the speck of a town where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed, killing hijackers and the passengers who fought back. "This is like losing part of the family. When I look at the memorial where people have left so many keepsakes in memory of the crew and passengers, it makes me want to cry."

Throughout Southern California, thousands of people attended dozens of events commemorating the terrorist attacks--from the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, to a dingy coffeehouse, where they played songs written for the occasion, to the Museum of Tolerance, where they lighted a candle for each of the more than 3,000 victims. In Los Angeles' Koreatown, Buddhist monks trailed a squad of police pipers, carrying a banner proclaiming: "Let there be peace on Earth."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday September 19, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 15 inches; 569 words Type of Material: Correction
Terror attacks--The name of Ryan Case, a sailor stationed in San Diego who was quoted about the anniversary of the terrorist attacks, was incorrectly transposed as Case Ryan in some stories in Sections A and the California section on Sept. 12.

Even those who busied themselves in the routine of work, or retreated into private reflection, were unable to avoid the relentless tug of the day's somberness and the spiraling dread of new terrorism threats.

In the wake of government warnings of terrorist movements that spurred a nationwide state of high alert, authorities moved quickly to avert trouble.

A Northwest Airlines jet on its way from Memphis, Tenn., to Las Vegas was diverted to Fort Smith, Ark., after three passengers reportedly locked themselves in a bathroom. A Dallas-bound American Airlines jet returned to Houston escorted by two F-16 fighter jets after a passenger mistakenly reported spotting a weapon aboard. A bomb threat emptied the Ohio Supreme Court building. And Coast Guard inspectors ordered a freighter out to sea after radioactive traces were detected in its cargo hold.

Airline passengers brave enough to fly and those with no other transportation choices found themselves buckled in for tense journeys. A flight attendant on a United Airlines jet from Dallas burst into tears over the intercom as the plane landed at Washington's Reagan National Airport. Dogged by morbid memories of planes turned into flying bombs, some travelers were visibly relieved after landing, alternately voicing defiance and admitting inner fears.

"I noticed more people looking around at each other," said Richard Wolff, a Jacksonville, Fla., businessman exiting a USAir flight at Reagan National. "I know I was more nervous today."

American businesses marked the day with varying degrees of homage. Flags flew at half staff outside McDonald's restaurants. Kmarts opened two hours late. General Motors held media ads. Even the Web mourned as Yahoo's home page was bordered in black and the auction site EBay displayed a virtual flag.

Air passengers were among the few Americans who could avoid the gripping televised images of mourning beamed from the concrete valleys of Lower Manhattan--and the mirror-image rites that the rest of America offered as their own salve for a lonesome day.

If New York had its burly, silent bagpipers and string-quartet dirges, Washington had its Pentagon parade ground of military men and Pennsylvania had its impromptu memorial fence of fluttering flags and baseball caps. Hundreds of other American towns found their own homespun ways to pay homage.

Firetruck horns in Waco, Texas, blared in solidarity. Navy fighter jets roared over Norfolk's harbor. Park Ridge, Ill., residents planted "liberty trees." Ancient church bells tolled all morning in tiny Winthrop, Maine--as they did in churches across the country--for each moment of impact of the four doomed planes. Firefighters in Bethesda, Md., snapped to attention outside their station, saluting a half-staff flag and idling rush-hour traffic as respectful motorists slowed in appreciation.

In Coventry, Capt. John Dolensky, surrounded by his 16-member fire department, all bedecked in dress double-breasted uniforms, intoned the names of 343 firefighters who perished at the World Trade Center. It took him 20 minutes. "Some of the names were a challenge, but these guys are heroes," Dolensky said later. "I hope I did them justice."

All day, every news channel offered grim, year-old footage of the twin towers afire and fresh images of mournful bagpipers and heartbroken families, reminding even casual viewers that attention had to be paid.

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