Crowd returns to park to celebrate 'triumph' Mood appears to be defiance of bomber

Atlanta Olympics

July 31, 1996|By KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

ATLANTA -- The people came. The blood was gone. And as music played once again yesterday at Centennial Olympic Park, a lost piece of Olympic spirit was reborn.

Moving through a legion of armed security, about 3,000 spectators flooded the park for a morning ceremony to honor victims of the Olympic bombing and to reopen the popular park.

With some on edge, some laughing, some still angry, the crowd seemed bent on sending a message to the person who did this: You can attack us. You can bloody our sidewalks and send terror through our hearts. But you can't win.

Andrew Young, an ordained minister and former Atlanta mayor, proclaimed to the crowd: "We're here not to wallow in tragedy, but to celebrate a triumph -- a triumph of the human spirit."

Horace Chambers, an Atlanta cab driver, shared the feeling.

"It's important for people to come together," he said. "We have to let the guy who did this know, you can't get us down."

As he led the ceremony, Young tried to offer solace to the 111 victims injured in the pipe-bomb attack -- and, most of all, the grieving families of the dead.

The explosion killed 44-year-old Alice Hawthorne of Albany, Ga., and was blamed for the heart attack that killed a Turkish TV cameraman who rushed to cover the bombing aftermath.

"It's unfortunate that our lives are too often defined by the tragedies and pain we suffer," Young said, but added later: "We assure you that your suffering is not in vain. We assure you that we, the children of the world, will learn new lessons from this experience."

Before the bombing, the 21-acre downtown park had been a central Olympic attraction. Tourists flocked there each day, visiting stores and listening to free outdoor concerts.

Karen Horrisberger, attending the Olympics from Mansfield, Ohio, said she felt comfortable about going to the park, even though she came to Atlanta after the bombing Saturday.

And she said it was important not to buckle under to terrorism. "You can't let that ruin the whole Olympic event," she said.

Security was heightened at the park, which previously had few armed guards. Visitors could come and go freely.

For yesterday's opening, security was doubled. Guards were checking bags at random. Armed police and troops controlled the flow of visitors entering the gates, scanning people as they entered. Olympic officials also had additional monitoring sites and surveillance cameras installed.

While the reopening ceremony went on, police strolled the park, checking for bombs in trash cans and trash receptacles. Twenty bomb-sniffing dogs also walked the grounds, along with other dogs brought in for crowd control. "We want people to feel like they can feel comfortable coming here," said Mitch Burkdoll, a deputy sheriff from suburban Clayton County, walking the grounds with his trained dog, Arno.

Olympic medalists such as Janet Evans were on hand, along with celebrities who caused a stir.

Billy Payne, president of the Atlanta Olympic organizing committee, led a brief moment of silence.

Singer Anita Whitaker, joined by the Georgia Mass choir, ended the 17-minute ceremony with an Olympic song.

Pub Date: 7/31/96

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