- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 1, 2002

NEW YORK Under tight security, a huge Times Square crowd ushered in 2002, paying a red-white-and-blue tribute to the September 11 victims, and saying goodbye to one of the most terrible years in New York history.

New Year's Eve revelers lined up at security checkpoints to stake out spots for the annual dropping of the Waterford crystal ball, which hit the ground at the stroke of midnight.

Just before midnight, the huge crowd estimated at 500,000 belted out "God Bless America" until Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani pressed the button that began the final countdown.

Among the partiers was Javier Romero, 21, who said participating in the celebration was part of getting back to normal the Times Square tradition dates to 1904 after the terrorist attacks.

"It's kind of my part of saying I'm not afraid," he said.

The crowd fell silent when the night's official festivities began at 6 p.m. as 7-year-old Logan Miller, who lost his uncle in the attacks, rang a bell onstage at Times Square in a ceremony to honor the September 11 victims.

Bells were simultaneously rung at churches and synagogues citywide as the traditional crystal ball was hoisted into position.

A giant screen over Times Square displayed an image of a fluttering U.S. flag and listed every police precinct, firehouse, Port Authority unit, airline and nation that lost people in the attacks.

"I've been here nine years and the silence of a large crowd, the moment when Times Square was completely silent, was remarkable," said event producer Peter Kohlmann. "I don't think it's ever been as silent as that."

Other celebrations were planned across the country, from fireworks in Philadelphia and Seattle to a bash at an Anchorage, Alaska, bar featuring a Canadian rock band that plays "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The nation approached the new year much as it ended the old, in a heightened state of readiness for potential terrorist attacks.

"The country is on alert" and in "2002 the country will still be on alert," President Bush said from Texas.

Some celebrations, including Denver's citywide party and fireworks in New York's Central Park, were canceled. About 20 U.S. communities also dropped their First Night events because of terrorism fears or lack of money and volunteers.

But throughout the nation last night, there were no reports of terrorism as the Eastern time zone rang in the New Year.

In Boston, city officials estimated more than 1 million people took part in the city's 26th annual First Night celebration the oldest in the country. In Hartford, Conn., revelers at the city's New Year's Eve celebration at City Hall were given the opportunity to reflect on the events of 2001 by writing any regrets on a scrap of paper. The scraps were to be tossed into a bonfire.

Cheap hotel rooms and a half million dollars worth of fireworks helped lure revelers to Las Vegas' glittery Strip. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority predicted 282,000 people would come to town to mark the new year.

The New Year's celebration in Times Square was the city's largest event since the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Some 7,000 police officers were on duty twice the number for an ordinary New Year's celebration and some carried radiation detectors.

There also were hand-held metal detectors and bomb-sniffing dogs at the checkpoints.

Plans called for police sharpshooters on rooftops, and all aircraft except police helicopters were banned over Times Square.

"When I was here in 2000, they came and checked everybody's bag," said Ernesto Becerrio, 27, of Boston. "I don't mind if they do because it's for our safety."

The ball itself honored the victims: The 504 triangular panels that cover the 1,070-pound ball were engraved with the names of each police precinct, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey unit, firehouse, airline and nation that suffered losses September 11.

It was the final New Year's celebration as mayor for Mr. Giuliani. He swore in his successor, Michael R. Bloomberg, in a public ceremony two minutes after midnight.


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