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Tragedy prompts renewed patriotism

(CNN) -- Across the country, American flags fly from car antennas and hang in offices and stores. Irving Berlin's "God Bless America" is back in vogue.

And, when asked how they feel in the aftermath of the tragedy that unfolded last Tuesday, many Americans express love and pride in their country.

"I'm so proud to be an American right now," says Allison London, a New Yorker who is touched by the outpouring of support for the city.

"We traveled from Huntsville, Alabama, to come down here to show our support for the New York citizens," a visitor to Manhattan told CNN. "We want them to know we're here (and) we feel their pain."

New York is a center of this new patriotism. At the heart of Times Square, an American flag stands watch over the memory of the thousands lost last Tuesday, and to the thousands more never to see husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and children again. And, in the midst of the constellation of Times Square marquees, appeals to consumerism now compete with calls to patriotism.

"We're the United States of America, and I think we're truly united, and I think as an American that makes me feel very proud," says one New Yorker who has decorated his clothes with flag buttons.

'We all have to unite'

That sentiment is shared across the country.

"U.S. means us," Maurice Perkins, sitting in The Great Migration Café on Chicago's South Side, tells The Associated Press. "We all have to unite, put these uniforms on and go do something."

Perkins, a 50-year-old Army veteran, runs an anti-gang program, the Inner-City Youth Foundation, in the shadow of the poverty-stricken Robert Taylor Homes. He acknowledges that serious racial inequities exist in this country, but that has not dampened the patriotism that poor people share in this community. "There are still problems with the white man leading and the black man bleeding," he says, "but look out there -- you still see a lot of flags flying."

In the South, American outsells Confederate

In the U.S. South, those flags are now more likely to be American flags than Confederate flags.

Not long ago, battles over the display of the Confederate Stars and Bars in South Carolina, Georgia, and Mississippi had provoked defenders of Confederate heritage to protest in state legislatures. Now, those partisans say they want to show they're Americans first, united behind the rest of the country.

"In light of the thing that has happened with the terrorists, we thought we would fly the U.S. flag on the big pole in honor of the dead," says Maurice Bessinger, a South Carolina restaurateur who had taken down the Stars and Stripes from flagpoles at his restaurants last year in protest of the removal of the Confederate flag at the South Carolina Statehouse. "I'm against terrorism, as any good conservative would be," he tells the AP.

"The demand is still there for the old Georgia flag (with the Confederate Stars and Bars)," says Pat Robinson, owner of Savannah Sails and Rails flag shop in Savannah, Georgia, whose stock of standard 3-by-5 foot American flags ran out soon after the September 11 attacks. "But since Tuesday, anybody who thinks about anything other than the American flag or the USA is crazy."

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