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Flame Passes Through Florida Capital

July 2, 1996

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ The last thing the Florida capital needed Tuesday was anything that generated heat. But the arrival of the Olympic torch lured thousands of people out of air-conditioned homes and offices.

``I’ll probably never be able to see it again,″ said Michelle McKnight, a 27-year-old office worker. ``It’s a part of history. It’s been everywhere and you get to see it yourself.″

Emmett Waltz, 69, said he guessed patriotic feelings prompted him to brave the heat.

``This doesn’t happen too often in a lifetime,″ he said.

Janelle Vinson, a bookkeeper, said she just wanted to be a part of it despite the ``unbearable″ heat.

``This has to be something in order for me to give up my air-conditioned office,″ she said as she stood waiting with about 1,500 others for the torch to arrive at the Old Capitol.

The temperature was 95 degrees, but the humidity pushed the heat index to 102 degrees. It felt even hotter to Judy Bond of the American Red Cross.

``135! That is a direct quote from the American Red Cross,″ Bond said from her station a few blocks away. ``135!″

About a dozen people came to the Red Cross station to cool off, Bond said.

The torch, which entered Florida near the Panhandle hamlet of Campellton on Monday, will leave the state next Tuesday.

After leaving Tallahassee, the torch caravan was scheduled to travel to Gainesville and then trek down the west coast through St. Petersburg and Sarasota. It will then travel to Miami and up the east coast, including a jog through Orlando. The torch will leave Florida, sailing from downtown Jacksonville to Savannah, Ga.

In all, nearly 1,000 Floridians will carry the torch.

``It was beyond belief,″ Charles Guyton said as he delivered the torch to the steps of the Old Capitol where Walter McCoy was waiting.

Guyton, a 43-year-old attorney, was nominated to be a torch-carrier because of the time he volunteers to United Way. McCoy, 36, won a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles as a part of the 4 by 400 meter relay.

``Butterflies,″ McCoy told reporters as he waited for his turn. ``I feel just like I did when I was competing.″

McCoy had been training to go the Atlanta Games, but a car accident last summer put an end to his comeback dream.

He carried the torch a few blocks to a stage where music and videos provided a short break. An estimated 5,000 people watched as the torch was handed on to Marcie Davis, who carried it in her wheelchair with her dog Ramona at her side.

Davis, 30, runs the victim advocacy program in the attorney general’s office and volunteers with the city, Canine Companions for Independence and Telephone Counseling and Referral Service.

``This is very exciting,″ Davis said. ``This is like being a movie star.″

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