- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 22, 2001

The highest-ranking enlisted person in the U.S. Coast Guard helped bring the Olympic torch closer to the Winter Games in Salt Lake City yesterday when he carried the flame one-fifth of a mile through the District's streets.
Vincent Patton III, master chief petty officer of the U.S. Coast Guard, was a portrait of joy as he ran north on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE, then headed east on W Street before igniting the flame of the next torchbearer.
"It was great, it was great," said Petty Officer Patton, 47, who is the first black to attain his rank in the Coast Guard and who joins Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld during the secretary's trips overseas.
"I had a wonderful time," he said with a wide smile after his run. But one-fifth a mile isn't much for Petty Officer Patton, who has run more than 15 marathons.
The flame that will light the cauldron during opening ceremonies entered the Washington area east of Falls Church.
It took an emotional route, passing by the damaged Pentagon as part of a memorial to the victims of the September 11 attacks.
The torch arrived there just after noon, under clear blue skies and in chilly temperatures. It was carried by Chief Petty Officer Bernard Brown, whose 11-year-old son was on the plane that slammed into the Pentagon.
A crowd of about 300 heard the strains of a U.S. Army Band and watched a multiservice ceremonial color guard welcome the torch.
From the Pentagon the torch traveled to Alexandria, then through Prince George's County before entering Southeast.
Among the sites it passed in Washington were the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, Dupont Circle and the National Cathedral. At Freedom Plaza, the city sponsored a celebration marking its arrival.
By the time it leaves for Baltimore this morning, the torch will have been passed by more than 200 local torchbearers, many of whom were thrilled about their role.
"It was very powerful and very inspiring, and I was very challenged," said Susie Kay, president and founder of the Hoop Dreams Scholarship Fund, which raises money for college scholarships. After completing her uphill run on Good Hope Road in Southeast, she said, "It was absolutely the most incredible experience I've ever had in my life."
Miss Kay said she drew much motivation, strength and pleasure when running by some District public school students.
"Usually I'm cheering them on, but this time they were cheering me on," Miss Kay said, adding that she had intended to train but never found time.
"Stopping to rest was not even an option," she said, laughing.
This morning, the torch will be taken to the White House, and then on to Baltimore, Wilmington, Del., and Philadelphia.
It will be carried by Elizabeth Anderson Howell, whose husband, Brady Howell, was killed in the Pentagon crash, and Georgetown University student Eric Jones, who helped carry wounded victims out of the Pentagon, said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
The runners will be greeted by President Bush, who is "very proud to welcome them to his home in Washington and to see them carry the torch for our nation," Mr. Fleischer said.
By the time the torch reaches Salt Lake City on Feb. 6, it will have traveled 13,500 miles and been handled by 11,500 persons.
The flame will light the cauldron on Feb. 8, during opening ceremonies at the Winter Games of the XIX Olympiad.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide