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Patriotic celebrations give outlets for thanks

Friday, November 23, 2001

With Sept. 11 still fresh in their minds, Americans at ground zero and across the nation celebrated Thanksgiving with renewed fervor and patriotism even as they struggled to cope with losses.

Many found new meaning in the holiday as they joined family and friends, counted their blessings and found ways to help those less fortunate.

"I'm a lot more thankful for my job, for the warm weather, everything," said Tim Shores, 40, a steelworker watching Detroit's Thanksgiving parade clad in an American flag blanket and a Detroit Lions cap.

The Gambales of New York's Brooklyn borough lost their oldest daughter, Giovanna "Gennie" Gambale, 27, in the World Trade Center attacks. They spent Thanksgiving with their other two children trying to stay away from memories of holidays before.

"It goes without saying, we miss her tremendously, but we miss her every day, and we're just trying not to let the holiday peck at us in another way," said mother Maryann Gambale, 53, as tears sprang to her eyes.

At Ground Zero

At the trade center site, Thanksgiving provided no respite from the recovery and cleanup effort. Crews were there on the holiday because families of missing firefighters had criticized a Veterans Day work stoppage.

"We're hoping that maybe the towers will give somebody up for us today," firefighter Michael Crowell said. "There are families sitting out there, and there's not too much for them to be thankful for. Today's the day you really hope you can find someone, to find a way to give back to the families."

A nearby hotel provided turkey and salmon dinners, and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani stopped by to thank workers.

"I know it's hard and it's very difficult because they all want to be with their families," the mayor said. "And at the same time, there are so many families that have hope that we'll be able to find the remains of their loved ones."

Working with an organization that helps AIDS patients, Giuliani also delivered turkey to Nelson Richardson, an AIDS patient in nearby Battery Park City, where residents had been forced to flee Sept. 11.

"It's nice having company," Richardson said after receiving a meal of turkey, broccoli, carrots and rice pilaf. "Last year, Joan Rivers came by. That was a real treat. So this was a step up."

Macy's parade

A few miles away, the Macy's Thanksgiving parade rolled down Broadway, featuring a lead float called "Tribute to America" -- a Statue of Liberty replica surrounded by midshipmen from the Merchant Marine Academy of New York waving 50 state flags and 50 American flags. Broadway star Betty Buckley sang "America the Beautiful."

"It was awesome!" Meredith Kenny, 15, of Manhassett. "It's a lot more patriotic this year and it's good to see all the flags."

Security was tight, as it has been throughout the city since Sept. 11. Shelley Veigh, a Macy's employee who was dressed as a bowling pin, said some of the other people in costume were actually law enforcement officers.

But the crowd was buoyant as it cheered members of the military, police, firefighters and other emergency workers. Parade watchers chanted "Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!" as Giuliani boarded a float with the police and fire commissioners and Yankees Manager Joe Torre.

"This parade is really great for the city. It shows the world our resolve and our feeling for life," said Frank Ray, an off-duty police officer who watched the parade with his wife and two children.

Patriotism was also the theme at Detroit's 75th Thanksgiving parade, and there were other reminders of the war on terrorism: More officers patrolled the parade route and there were extra security checkpoints. The use of propellants, propane and thrown items like candy were banned.

Thousands of people gathered to gawk at floats and celebrities, but the real stars were the police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians who carried a 30-foot-by-60-foot American flag, accompanied by Lee Greenwood singing his hit, "God Bless the U.S.A."

Meals and music

In Baltimore, thousands of needy people dined at a Thanksgiving dinner honoring Bea Gaddy, a well-known advocate for the homeless and poor who died last month at age 68.

In Philadelphia, Miss America Katie Harman sang "America the Beautiful" and a chorus of children led spectators in the pledge of allegiance to kick off the annual parade.

Cassie Lang, 13, of Philadelphia, wore an "I love N.Y." sweat shirt on the parade sidelines. Sue Timson of Lindenwold, N.J., wore an American flag scarf and brought her grandchildren, despite any worries about terrorist activity geared at holiday revelers.

"Even though we lost a lot on Sept. 11, we have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving -- maybe more so than usual," Timson said.

In an annual tradition, several hundred people in Plymouth, Mass., joined an American Indian group protesting what they called "racist mythology" surrounding the first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims in Plymouth in 1621.


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