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Fewer visitors at nation's memorials

November 13, 2001|By SAM SCOTT, Special to this newspaper

WASHINGTON (MNS) — It was a little quieter near the Vietnam Wall on Monday than on other Veterans Day holidays as some tourists and school kids stayed away from the capital.

"Normally there'd been kids running up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial," said Paula Stufflebean, an Air Force veteran who travels from Missouri every year to volunteer at the wall with her husband. "There'd normally be a lot more tour groups."

On a clear, crisp fall day, people of all ages — many in uniform — quietly paraded along the wall and past the nearby Korean War monument. Many left poems, photos, flags and wreaths.

But park rangers said the terrorist attacks in September and the subsequent anthrax fears have meant fewer visitors this year.

"People are rather cautious now," said Katherine Williams, a park ranger. "Lots of school groups are afraid to come to D.C."

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William Johnson, a high school senior from Washington state, was on a group trip to the capital to learn about government. He said flying hadn't troubled him, but the threat of a "biochemical occurrence" had.

Others took the tenor of the times as more reason to visit the war memorials.

Matthew Irish, a sergeant in the Air Force, was taking a tour of all the city's war memorials. He had seen all the memorials before, but, he said, it seemed like a good time to do it again.

His friend, Melanie Chaump, said the global situation put the monuments in a different light.

"This is the first time our generation has been involved in such a large-scale conflict," she said. "It seemed an appropriate way to reflect on what other generations have been through."

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