Across U.S., people fly flags, gather for vigils

Posted: Friday, September 14, 2001

In towns across the nation, people flew American flags and gathered for vigils to remember the lives lost in this week's terrorists attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Congress broke from its business Wednesday to hold an evening prayer vigil for the victims. As the Marine Corps band played, lawmakers and their spouses sang ''God Bless America.''

''There are often times in our lives when things happen. We don't know why,'' Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla., told the crowd. ''We just have to call on faith and climb in God's lap and say, 'Here, Father, fix it.'''

In Grants Pass, Ore., Kiwanis Club members festooned the two main streets with American flags. They were put out at the behest of Ruth McGregor, a local bookstore owner who remembered living through the horror of World War II as a child.

''When I woke up and turned on the television, it was Pearl Harbor Day all over again,'' McGregor said. ''The first thing my mother did then was put the flag out on the porch.''

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., asked all New Yorkers to hang an American flag from their windows as a symbol of freedom, and South Dakota Gov. Bill Janklow urged churches to ring their bells for five minutes Saturday at noon.

''Let's ring those bells in memory of our soldiers, and in memory of those who have died and have been injured this week, and let's ring them for freedom,'' Janklow said.

Country singer Martina McBride performed for about 2,000 people at a vigil in Nashville, Tenn., hastily organized by several local radio stations. Organizers handed out small American flags, white ribbons and candles.

In Cincinnati, about 150 people holding lighted candles marched Wednesday evening from Fountain Square to the federal building, where they left yellow marigolds and black-eyed Susans in the memory of the victims.

Ohio Gov. Bob Taft told about 750 at the Statehouse in Columbus: ''Today is a day to renew our faith in America.''

The California Legislature also held a 30-minute memorial service.

''We will not let these acts of terrorism bring our country to a halt,'' said Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg.

In sports, the Big Sky Conference called off all Friday events to set aside the day as a memorial to victims.

The New York Philharmonic canceled its opening night gala Sept. 20 and planned to replace it with a memorial concert.

Organizers of the Miss America Pageant, scheduled Sept. 22, said the show would be dedicated to the memory of the firefighters, police officers, emergency workers, airline crews and other innocent people who died.

''As our leaders have all been saying, these terrorists wanted to disrupt our American way of life,'' said Miss California Stephanie Baldwin. ''We felt it was important to go ahead with our way of life and not let them win.''

At the University of Maryland in College Park, hundreds of heads uneasily turned skyward as the roar of a jet split the silence of a memorial Wednesday.

''This changes our whole outlook on our daily lives,'' said Brian Foltz, 21.

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