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Flowers, cheers and determination

Service heralds reopening of bombed park

girl and flower July 30, 1996
Web posted at: 1:15 p.m. EDT

ATLANTA (CNN) -- In a brief but moving ceremony reflective of the Olympic spirit, citizens of the world gathered by the thousands in a downtown Atlanta park Tuesday to mourn the victims of a terrorist bomb while celebrating "the joy of humanity." (1.64M QuickTime movie)movie icon

"We're here to proclaim a victory. We're here, not to wallow in tragedy, but to celebrate a triumph of the human spirit," said Andrew Young, co-chairman of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, during the memorial service at the reopened Centennial Olympic Park. (1.47M QuickTime movie)movie icon

The outdoor service was conducted from a stage at the park's Global Olympic Village, not far from where a crude pipe bomb exploded early Saturday morning, killing a Georgia woman and injuring 111 other people. A Turkish cameraman also died, of a heart attack while running to cover the blast.

The park was closed for three days while officials investigated the bombing.


Music, dignitaries

Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis opened the service with a solo rendition of the spiritual "A Closer Walk With Thee." At the close, Nina Whitaker and the Georgia Mass Choir performed "Power of the Dream," a song written specifically for the Centennial Games.

After a moment of silence, the crowd cheered when ACOG Chairman Billy Payne said: "It is now our pleasure to declare reopened, Centennial Olympic Park." Others on stage included International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch and Olympic swimmer Janet Evans of the United States.

'Triumph of the human spirit'

The park's entertainment and commercial activities were put on hold until after the service. Just minutes after the service ended, visitors were once again frolicking in the park's Olympic Rings Fountain.


sound icon Describing the 21-acre park's popularity in the days before the bombing, Young called it a place where people from all over the world learned to "celebrate the joy of humanity." (572K AIFF or WAV sound)

Young said hospitalized bomb victims he and others visited on Monday were not resentful. "If there was ever was a triumph of the human spirit, it was in the young people of Georgia, from Connecticut, from Kentucky, from England, from all over all over the world, who were victims of this incident. (They) were only looking forward to getting on with their lives and many of them hoping to get out of the hospital in time to get back to the games."

"We say those who suffered here ... your suffering is not in vain. We assure you that we, the children of the world, will learn new lessons," Young said. "We will define the future, not hatred, not bitterness, not alienation. But joy (and) happiness."

As of Tuesday, 10 victims remained hospitalized.

"We can't give these creeps their jollies by staying away."

-- Leslie Heinz, injured in the bombing

As the park opened at 8 a.m., a big cheer went up and the crowd of several thousand whistled and applauded. Once inside, some visitors placed flowers on a hill near the lighting tower that took the full force of the blast. Others said prayers. The overall mood was a determination not to give in to terrorist fear.

sound icon "I think the best thing we can do is not give these creeps their jollies by staying away," said Leslie Heinz, a Lexington, Kentucky woman who suffered a shoulder injury in the bombing. (381K AIFF or WAV sound)

Heinz said entering the park Tuesday morning caused her to feel "a relapse of fear, but seeing all these people made me feel great."

During a live interview on CNN, she thanked the unknown "strangers in the crowd" who came to her aid after the blast.

Related story:

Olympic park bombing Sights and sounds
The investigation
The victims
Olympic security
Impact on the games
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