Trauma-scarred year ends in parties, prayers

Religious or secular, celebrations look to 2002 with hope

January 01, 2002|By Michael Scarcella, Laura Sullivan and John Rivera | Michael Scarcella, Laura Sullivan and John Rivera,SUN STAFF

Traditional celebrations in downtown Baltimore and Annapolis - and prayers and reflections at area religious services - commemorated the beginning of 2002 last night and the end of a traumatic year marked by the events of Sept. 11.

Jeff Cameron came to Baltimore's Inner Harbor last night to watch the midnight fireworks display with his girlfriend, mindful of the impact of the attacks on America.

"I think things will be different this year," said Cameron, 22, a resident of Columbia. "The country has come together, and it's a nice thing to see."

Others among the thousands who lined the waterfront in sub-freezing temperatures to watch a parade and listen to music were happy to put the past year behind them.

"It's a relief this year has ended," said Taylor Kennedy, 17, one of a group of eight from the Virginia suburbs of Washington. "It's nice to come to a place with a nice atmosphere and a lot of security."

Shortly before midnight, the crowd at the Inner Harbor numbered an estimated 100,000, about the same as last year, said Bill Gilmore, executive director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion.

Earlier, calls for peace in areas of conflict at home and abroad echoed through the candle-lit interior of Old St. Paul's Church in downtown Baltimore, while thousands flocked to festivities in Annapolis.

"It's amazing just how fast the world has changed," said Scott R. Taylor, 38, who attended the service at Old St. Paul's. "In a way, a lot more Americans are paying attention more to things they didn't care about before."

"Innocence has been shattered," said Taylor, a Fells Point resident and Army major.

In Annapolis, Chip and Gail Tucker and their two children - ages 11 and 7 - reprised their annual New Year's Eve visit to First Night Annapolis, a celebration featuring dozens of shows, games and activities.

The Tucker family got off to a strong start in the craft room making banners and decorations, and Chip Tucker said he was expecting another long evening.

"People who come to this really get into it," he said. "The long lines, the crowds, people just roll with it."

Lori Ruff of Annapolis said she was thrilled to find something parents could do with their children on New Year's Eve. In addition to her twin 7-year-olds, she brought along a friend's children, Danielle Johnson, 9, and Erica Johnson, 11.

"It's something for them to participate in because so many of them are not going to make it until midnight to watch the ball drop," she said.

In Havre de Grace, hundreds had gathered to bring in the new year by watching a 9-foot lighted plastic duck - a symbol of the self-proclaimed decoy capitol of the world - drop from a firetruck ladder at the stroke of midnight.

"Anytime you do something that's silly and fun, people come to watch," said Carolyn Narvell, one of the event's organizers.

In Baltimore, police beefed up patrols throughout the city, looking to prevent violence stemming from another city tradition: people ringing in the New Year by firing bullets into the air in neighborhoods.

Early this morning, police reported two officer-involved shootings - one in the 3300 block of Clifton Ave. in which two men were shot and another in the 2200 block of Prentiss Place in which one man was wounded. Further details were not immediately available.

A year ago, police made 86 gun-related arrests on New Year's Eve and seized 101 guns.

People of faith commemorated the end of 2001 and the beginning of 2002 with prayer and reflection.

Many Christians kept vigil as midnight approached in traditional Watch Night services.

The tradition originated on an April night in 1742 with Methodists in Kingswood, England, where miners hoping to be distracted from the pleasures of the alehouse gathered for prayer.

Central Presbyterian Church in Towson continued the tradition last night in a contemplative service that drew about 100 people. At midnight, the congregation was to open the new year not with a toast, but with Holy Communion.

The Watch Night tradition is observed faithfully among African-American Christians, who rented out some of the largest venues in town for their services.

"It's deep in our ... experience," said the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, pastor of Douglas Memorial Community Church. "I remember as a young man growing up in Savannah, Georgia, we were always in church on New Year's Eve."

The sounds of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra - normally heard in Meyerhoff Symphony Hall - were replaced by the gospel sounds of the First Mount Olive Free Will Baptist Church. The Empowerment Temple AME Church praised God in the newly inaugurated fine arts center at Morgan State University.

And the Baltimore Arena was filled with singing, shouting and clapping as the members of the New Psalmist Baptist Church nearly filled all three tiers, as they do each year.

Christians, Jews and Muslims offered prayers for the ninth year at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church in Mount Vernon in what has become an interfaith Baltimore tradition.

The service included petitions from people representing the political, business, arts, medical, educational, charitable and media communities.

Mayor Martin O'Malley prayed on behalf of the city.

"We give praise and thanks to you, our God, for this great city of Baltimore: its people, its neighborhoods, its harbors and parks, its institutions and businesses, its long and glorious history," he said.

"Tonight, in unity," O'Malley continued, "we form one people more than ever in the wake of the September terrorist attacks."

Sun staff writers Del Quentin Wilber, Jason Song and Richard Irwin contributed to this article.

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