- The Washington Times - Friday, July 5, 2002

A sparkling, 17-minute fireworks display over the Washington Monument thrilled thousands of flag-waving revelers on the Mall last night, capping an Independence Day celebration marked by tight security and stifling heat.
Crowds enjoyed performances by Aretha Franklin, Chuck Berry, Richard Chamberlain, Lee Ann Womack and the National Symphony Orchestra, whose rendition of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" drew cheers as fireworks exploded overhead during the first Fourth of July festival since the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"I love those fireworks. I particularly liked the smiley face," said Madison Goff, 6, of Richmond. "I didn't know about the grand finale, though. It surprised me."
"This is really a first in my life. I think the thing that came to my mind was a kind of resurrection after September 11," said medical researcher Joeri Aerts, 28, who moved to Bethesda from Belgium six months ago. "It showed foreigners like me that, 'Hey, we're still here.' It was really quite impressive."
"They seemed more spectacular this year than last year," said Melanie Lockhart, 32, of Northwest. "It didn't seem more tense, but people seemed to be more polite."
Police officials said revelers conducted themselves peaceably, even though baggage checks at some of the 24 security checkpoints set up around the Mall caused delays of up to 30 minutes. A double wood-slatted fence ringed the Mall to provide an extra measure of security amid unspecified threats of terrorist action.
"I'm definitely surprised by the level of [security]. I'd rather be safe than sorry," said second-grade school teacher Jill DeRosa, 28, adding that she thought the Mall "was a safer place to be because of all the security."
More than 2,000 police officers from different jurisdictions some in uniform, some in plain clothes patrolled the area in an all-out anti-terrorism effort. U.S. Park Police, which coordinated the security effort, reported seven arrests for minor violations.
In the end, it was the heat not terrorism that proved to be the real enemy. Temperatures climbed to nearly 100 degrees, and the humidity made the air feel 10 to 15 degrees warmer than that.
Around the Mall, people huddled under shade trees and beach umbrellas they had brought with them. Near one security checkpoint, a portable water tanker offered free water, and people lined up to fill their bottles and put their heads under the spigot.
"The mood seems pretty good, even in the 300-degree heat," said Pentagon employee Michelle Vancleave of Capitol Hill.
A National Park Service spokesman said at least 84 persons were treated for heat exhaustion at first-aid stations on the Mall and surrounding parks, with 30 of them taken to local hospitals.
The D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, which had five advanced life-support units near the Mall, reported that several people collapsed from the heat at Virginia Avenue and C Street NW at about 2:30 p.m. At least two persons were in serious condition.
EMS workers checked more than 150 people for heat-related illnesses, and 18 were transported to hospitals, fire department spokesman Alan Etter said.
Though thousands turned out for the Fourth of July celebrations, yesterday afternoon's crowds appeared smaller than those of years past. U.S. Park Police, which has jurisdiction of the Mall, has a policy of no longer providing crowd estimates, but has reported Independence Day crowds in the past of more than 500,000.
Metro officials said about 200,000 passengers had traveled via subway by 7 p.m., compared with 300,000 who had used the subway by that time last year. Metro's busiest Independence Day was in 1997, when more than 593,000 people crowded onto the trains.
Many on the Mall yesterday expressed defiance in their celebrations.
Bob Blair, 47, a government contractor from Leesburg, Va., said he came "to show we aren't going to be terrorized."
"Life goes on. We can take it," he said.
"There is no way I would have missed it this year," said Nell Johnson, 41, of Alexandria. "If people stay away, then [terrorists] win."
"Nothing made me want to do it more," Scott Corliss, 42, said of the Mall celebration in light of September 11.
Mr. Corliss had traveled with his wife and two daughters from Corpus Christi, Texas, to see the fireworks on the Mall for the first time and to go to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History to see the Corliss steam engine built by his great-great-great-great-great-granduncle George Corliss in 1876.
Michal Quinones, 31, and his girlfriend, Yanita Jon, both of Northern Virginia, said they were concerned about possible attacks, but didn't let their worries deter them from enjoying the Fourth.
"You worry about it," Mr. Quinones said, "but what are you going to do about it? You can't live your life in fear. Besides, the security is impressive and it makes me feel better about coming down to the Mall."
But the extra security measures didn't impress everyone.
Renee Parry, an Air Force meteorologist from Florida, complained that security personnel were not checking bags very carefully.
"We're not remaining here, as lame as security is," said Mrs. Parry, adding that she and her husband, Anthony, planned to view the evening fireworks display from Fort Myer. "Being military, I found the security a disappointment. Hopefully, nothing is going to happen."
"Security was better at the Woodstock festival in '99," said Mr. Parry, referring to the three-day rock concert held in upstate New York.
Some Fourth of July celebrations marked much more than America's independence.
At the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, about 200 people gathered around the Aitys stage to hear the "Masters of Afghan Music." Listeners clapped along, cheered and danced as the musicians played.
"This is great. You have all of these different cultures enjoying July Fourth," said Arjun KC, 32, a student at Johns Hopkins University who is originally from Nepal.
"While we're fighting terrorism in Afghanistan, we have all these Afghans celebrating the Fourth of July. You see all the Americans enjoying this Afghan music on the day of their independence. It's really neat," he said.
Music wasn't all the festival had to offer. Some spectators watched a Chinese martial-arts display at the Xi'an Tower, while others opted for Chinese and Japanese cuisine in the traditional Fourth of July cookout.
"It's great to create this harmonious atmosphere, since there's so much tension in the capital about the Fourth of July," said Amy Smith, 21, of Portland, Ore., who is in Washington for an a summer internship.
Her friend, Sara Ventura, said the variety of traditions at the festival is what America is all about.
"It's really awesome to see all this our country wouldn't be anything without this. It's a bunch of different cultures, not just the traditional red, white and blue," said Miss Ventura, 19, of Eugene, Ore.
Earlier, sidewalks along Constitution Avenue were crammed with spectators for the Independence Day Parade.
Onlookers gave a standing ovation to the float carrying the Pentagon police and responded politely to the police officers around them. The parade featured high school marching bands and representatives from many cultures and religions, from Vietnamese to Hare Krishnas.
Parents and friends of marchers paraded alongside them with water bottles and spritzers. A French horn player in a marching band collapsed in the crowd after he had pulled out of the parade.
For Karen Krouch, 42, who lives in Quantico, Va., this year was more meaningful because her husband emerged safely from the wing of the Pentagon where terrorists crashed a hijacked airliner, killing 189, on September 11.
Mrs. Krouch, her husband, Michael, and her father are staying at the Capital Yacht Club. She stopped to watch the parade as she was riding her bike wearing a tall, floppy, red-white-and-blue hat.
"It's a little more important to be here this year," Mrs. Krouch said. "It's been a long year, but I wanted to be in the city and celebrate."
Not eveyone on the Mall was celebrating.
Alex Asiazu, 18, was working at the Venetian Cafe, a Folklife Festival booth that offered biscotti, water and ice cream.
"At least we don't have ovens. We have freezers and cold stuff," said Miss Asiazu, who is from Ecuador and lives in Bethesda.
Daryl Curry, 17, of Upper Marlboro, was working an 11-hour shift at a refreshment cart on the Mall.
"It's extremely hot and very stressful. The sun is aggravating, and the people talking in different languages are kind of confusing," he said. "Because of the terrorist threat, I'd rather not be working."
This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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