- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 16, 2001

Call it a chance to catch their breath from a heart-wrenching week. Call it a brief pause from days of prayer. Or just say it was a beautiful day that brought thousands to the Mall this weekend, the first brief break since terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Tuesday.
People visited museums, flew kites, jogged or just lay in the sun. But it was easy to get jolted back to the real world. All it took was a glimpse of the extra park police on horseback near the Washington Monument, or the black sport utility vehicles filled with Secret Service officers, parked near the Capitol.
Beverly Roberts, a D.C. lawyer who took the week off because of the tragedy, was preparing to end what had become an overnight vigil on Friday in front of the Capitol. Ms. Roberts, wearing a black strip of cloth around her arm to mourn the victims of the attack, also had fashioned a message — "We Love USA." The handmade sign was attached to a makeshift clothesline.
Worried the message would be blown away or even stolen, she stayed through the night.
"I just had to do something or I would go crazy," she said. "I had to show that building," she paused, pointing at the U.S. Capitol, "that we're not afraid."
D.C. resident Tiffany Edwards, 23, took a break from her morning jog to watch Ms. Roberts secure her signs against the morning breeze.
"I think it's good for the country to keep going," Ms. Edwards said. "I usually come out here on the weekends to run and it kind of takes my mind off things right now."
That was why many tourists and local residents were out and about.
"We wanted to get out of the house and do something," said Tracy Boutwell of the District, holding the hand of her son, Thomas, 6, as they walked through the National Museum of Natural History. "He really likes dinosaurs so I thought we'd come hereit's been a tough week for him."
Guards at the Smithsonian museums spent a longer time searching people's bags and purses, another hint that it was not a regular Saturday. It may be hard for a while, however, to tell what a regular Saturday is supposed to feel like. A lot changed that Tuesday morning.
Under the shadow of the Washington Monument, in the Sylvan Theatre, about 40 people gathered for the Gospel Extravaganza for a day of prayer, preaching and inspirational music. The event had been planned back in January, but the past week's events saw many more churches contact the organizers about helping out.
"We wanted to dedicate this to the victims, their families and to the rescue workers," said the Rev. LeRoy Thompson, who organized the event with his wife and fellow pastor Rita Thompson.
As he spoke, gospel singers David and Sherry Scott led the small crowd in a medley that included "God Bless America" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."
Further up the Mall, a few games of football, baseball and soccer had sprung up.
Nearly everyone talked about lives lost Tuesday and what might happen next. Most wore or carried symbols of the American flag, from buttons and ribbons to red-white-and-blue purses and T-shirts emblazoned with Old Glory.
"This is a good way to relax right now," said D.C. resident Jay Bogart, 25, as he flew a kite near the Washington Monument. "This has been such an awful week for everybody."
Anyone who looked around closely could see the remnants of Friday's vigil. On the steps leading to the reflecting pool near the Lincoln Memorial, burnt piles of wax covered the ground and dozens of empty glass candle holders lay arranged near the water's edge.
"It's comforting to be here," said Denise Johnson, 44, from Alexandria as she stood near the water. "To see all the people out here, it shows our unity, that we're not going to take this."

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