Worshippers Celebrate Spirit of Renewal - and Spring - On Easter With AM-Easter-World, Bjt
Undated (AP) _ Worshipers across the United States celebrated the renewing message of Easter on Sunday - a poignant lesson for some in Georgia and Illinois who are rebuilding their homes and their lives devastated by a spate of tornadoes.
Others reveled in the traditional Spring rites of Easter egg hunts, sunrise church services and bunny appearances. And New York City pedestrians put on their bonnets - with all the frills - for an annual Fifth Avenue stroll.
More than 1,000 soldiers in Fort Campbell, Ky., had special reason to savor this Easter. They returned home Sunday and were greeted by a colorful crowd of family and friends awash in yellow, red, white and blue.
In New York, gawkers outnumbered the bonnet-bearing in the traditional walk. The Easter Parade, really just a casual mingling in which city dwellers enjoyed the opportunity to stare at each other without reprisal, drew several thousand people, police said.
Hats ranged from a photo collage and paper mache tribute to the victory in the Gulf War to a headdress touting vegetarianism and bonnets celebrating bunnies.
The altar of St. Patrick’s Cathedral was adorned with a magnificent display of cherry blossoms, lilies and azaleas. Cardinal John O’Connor told about 3,000 people that Easter doesn’t mean ″strolling down Fifth Avenue, as delightful as that may be.″
Instead, the day offers Christians a chance to renew their faith and ″reject Satan.″
The joy of the Biblical tale of Jesus Christ’s resurrection was tempered with sadness in parts of Georgia as residents tried to recoup from tornadoes that ripped through the state last week.
In Cobb and Douglas counties, where a string of tornadoes left millions of dollars worth of damage, residents picked through debris for their belongings.
The storms left LeRoy and Hazel Anders of Douglasville in the same condition they were in when they married 57 years ago - with no belongings.
″We’ve got to start over again,″ Anders said, tears rolling down his cheeks.
In Lemont, Ill., southwest of Chicago, many residents also spent the day cleaning up from a tornado that destroyed 25 to 35 houses Wednesday.
The Rev. Charles Maxwell-Harris of the Lemont United Methodist Church told about 400 people that God could rebuild their lives, just as Christ was resurrected.
″The power of response to the tornado has been even more powerful than the tornado itself,″ he said after the Easter service. ″As the cleanup continues, it gets demoralizing.″
In Fort Campbell, returning soldiers in the 101st Airborne Division were welcomed by a crowd wearing Easter bonnets swathed in yellow ribbon and waving American flags.
Jean Mingus brought a straw basket filled with chocolate eggs and bunnies for her son, Sgt. Bill Mingus of the 502nd Infantry Regiment.
″I’ve sent him boxes of goodies every week since he’s been there so I’m going to hand him this one,″ Mrs. Mingus said as she searched for her son.
Others observed Easter in more traditional ways.
In Los Angeles, an estimated 17,000 people attended an Easter sunrise service at the Hollywood Bowl. A 1,000-voice choir performed at the 4:45 a.m. gathering. The theme of the 71st annual service was ″World Peace.″
About 1,000 people in San Francisco celebrated Easter in a sunrise service at the foot of a huge cross on Mt. Davidson, the city’s highest peak. It was the 69th year the non-denominational service was held at the 103-foot cross made of steel and concrete.
Bob Hope and other celebrities entertained about 200 Gulf War veterans during a ″Yellow Ribbon Party″ at his Palm Springs home. Hope invited the Marines from a base in Twentynine Palms when he visited U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia in December.
In Georgia, about 10,000 people journeyed to Stone Mountain Park before dawn for Easter services both on top of the granite mountain and at its base.
In North Platte, Neb., hundreds of children gathered at a city park on Saturday for the annual VFW and Auxiliary Easter egg hunt. In a matter of minutes, organizers said the eggs, all 10,000 of them, were snatched up.
Brilliant sunshine, below-freezing temperatures and snow-covered daffodils greeted West Virginians who worshiped outdoors. More than 300 people gathered to pray in the cold dawn hours at Oglebay Park’s amphitheatre in Wheeling, where outdoor sunrise services are a 63-year-old tradition.
President Bush, meanwhile, headed to the Florida Keys for a vacation and used the sanctity of the religious holiday to duck questions about U.S. policy.
″It’s Easter,″ Bush said. ″It’s a day to ... count your blessings.″