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Memorial Day: Time to Honor or Time to Party?

Friday, 24 May 2002 12:00 AM

Twenty thousand people are expected to participate today in Chicago's Memorial Day parade, dedicated to those who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The attacks will also play a role in Washington at the national Memorial Day concert Sunday on the west lawn of the Capitol. It is the first large-scale event in Washington since Sept. 11, and for the first time at the nationally televised concert, security will be tight.

All of those attending will go through metal detectors. Packages, coolers and bags will be hand-searched.

"Our goal is not to make the Capitol an armed complex," said police Lt. Dan Nichols at a news conference this week. "But what we must do is to take reasonable and prudent precautions to ensure the safety and security of those who work and visit within our jurisdiction."

President Bush won't be in Washington, but he issued a proclamation saying, "The tradition of Memorial Day reinforces our nation's resolve to never forget those who gave their last full measure for America. As we engage in the war against terrorism, we must also pray for peace."

The president will take the opportunity of his visit to Europe to make a stop Monday in Normandy in northern France. He and his wife, Laura, will attend a Memorial Day service to honor U.S. military men who fought and died in World War II.

Memorial Day was at first known as Decoration Day. It was set aside to honor the nation's Civil War dead by decorating their graves. It was first observed nationally May 30, 1868, although there had been local ceremonies in various places before then.

After World War I, those who were killed in all of America's wars were honored. Congress altered the date in 1971 to place Memorial Day on the last Monday in May.

Eight Southern states have chosen different days in April and May to celebrate Confederate Memorial Day to honor the South's war dead.

The late May date has given the holiday the unofficial distinction as the first weekend of summer, and travel is always heavy. This year will be no exception, despite the threat of terrorism.

AAA auto clubs estimate 35.2 million Americans will travel 50 miles from home, up 1 percent from last year's 34.9 million.

Among the travelers, 29.3 million expect to go by car, up 2 percent from last year's 28.7 percent. Another 4.1 million plan to travel by airplane, down 7 percent from last year's 4.4 million.

The AAA says travel by train, bus and other modes of transportation are about the same at 1.8 million.

The drop in air travel was expected as the industry continues to try to recover from Sept. 11. The attacks resulted in more than $7 billion in losses and cutbacks of flights of about 20 percent.

Motorists, however, are getting a pleasant surprise this weekend. For the first time in memory, gas prices have dropped for the Memorial Day weekend.

The AAA said Friday the average for regular unleaded was $1.403, a penny less than Thursday and down nearly 20 cents from Memorial Day 2001, when it was $1.697.

Where are all those travelers going? Not to honor the war heroes, for the most part. Expect beaches and parks to be crowded. And one of the biggest events this weekend will be as far from traditional as it gets.

Miami Beach police preparing for as many as 500,000 rap fans at South Beach have closed 11 blocks of Ocean Drive, and plan to have 400 officers on hand with the help of 100 more on loan from Miami-Dade County.

Last year there were more than 200 arrests when 250,000 people surprised the locals. This year the entertainers will include P. Diddy, Ashanti and Ja Rule.

Hotels are at 100 percent of capacity. Some residents of South Beach, also known as SoBe, concede they moved there because of its hip reputation, but say enough is enough.

"I wish them well, and I hope it turns out smoothly, but I'm out of here," said Ocean Drive resident Jerry Marsch, who will spend the weekend in Fort Lauderdale. Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Twenty thousand people are expected to participate today in Chicago's Memorial Day parade, dedicated to those who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The attacks will also play a role in Washington at the national Memorial Day concert Sunday on the west lawn of the...
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2002-00-24
Friday, 24 May 2002 12:00 AM
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