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Town Split Over Presence Of Ribbons To Remember Hostages

March 11, 1986

OAKLAND, N.J. (AP) _ Hundreds of yellow ribbons put up around town last June won’t come down until Americans held hostage in Lebanon come home, city officials said, despite residents’ complaints that the fading decorations have become an eyesore.

″Fading a little bit just shows how long those people have been there,″ Councilman John DelCorpo said Monday. ″We made a commitment not to take them down until they were released. I am not going to be a hypocrite and take them down while there are five Americans still there.″

The ribbons went up after TWA Flight 847 was hijacked to Lebanon on June 14. The last passengers held captive were freed June 30, but five other Americans seized in separate incidents remain hostages in the war-torn Mideast nation.

The ribbon campaign was the idea of DelCorpo and the city ambulance squad, which helped tie the decorations to trees and telephone poles around this New York City suburb in northern New Jersey.

″I thought it was a great idea when they put them up,″ said resident Fred Procopio. ″But now they’re getting ratty looking.″

″They don’t look yellow anymore. Most look white and faded,″ added his wife, Debbie. ″People see them as eyesores.″

Many residents have taken down ribbons in their own yards, but those on public property will stay up, said Mayor William Winterhalter.

″I have no intentions of taking them down or having them replaced,″ he said.″Although the ribbons have faded, the reason for placing them around still remains. Whether they are an eyesore or not is a matter of opinion.″

Terry Anderson, 38, chief Middle East correspondent for The Associated Press; the Rev. Lawrence Jenco, 50, a Roman Catholic priest; David Jacobsen, 57, an administrator at American University Hospital; Peter Kilburn, 60, a librarian at the American University of Beirut; and Thomas Sutherland, 54, agriculture dean at the American University of Beirut, are still hostages.

Kidnappers have said they killed hostage William Buckley, 57, a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, but his body was never found.