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The site below was placed online in July & August, 1996, and has largely been left in its original form
The Return to Centennial Park
If you read the report of my first trip to Centennial Park, you may remember that I was underwhelmed by the exhibitions, and overwhelmed by the logo-mania. I intended to return only to photograph the night lights, and to people watch, as the park just didn't excite me very much.
That was then.....

23k-waiting crowd
Centennial Park is now a symbol, an important one, to me. It's not only a symbol of American defiance of terrorism, it's very much a symbol of a place I hold most dear, Atlanta, the "comeback city". This town seems destined to face great adversity, and rise above it, like the proverbial phoenix from the flames. Whether it's the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement, a stoning by the International Press, or the Centennial Park bombing, this city and its people have the strength, and most importantly, the heart, to persevere and succeed against the odds.

So, when I heard that the park would re-open 7/30/96 at 8am, with a memorial service at 10am, I knew I had to be there. Not just because of this web site, but primarily, because I'm an Atlantan. I knew I wouldn't be alone. I got a call from a good friend, Alan Hilbert, who wanted to know if I was going, and if he could come along. He said he couldn't put exactly *why* into words, but he felt like he had to be there. Turns out, he, along with his wife, son, and daughter, had watched a concert the night before the bombing, while sitting 15 feet from Ground Zero.

I think I know *why* Alan.....to you, this act directly threatened those you hold dearest, and your Southern Defiance insisted you show up and be counted. I seem to remember you saying around 5:45am that, if you had your way, you'd show up with the word "bomb" painted on one cheek of your butt, and "this" on the other cheek, then *moon* all the TV cameras so you could show this psycho-sicko how you really feel (I have such colorful friends...). If that's not Southern Defiance, I don't know what is.

We arrived at the International Blvd. gate at 7am, only to find the media outnumbered the regular humans. There were so many lying around, they had to put traffic cones around them. Alan's a former newspaper photographer, so we both watched with interest as the media beast had breakfast [WARNING: This is the first of several "media-metaphors"....they're just such a ripe juicy target]
15k-Alan interviewed
When the number of the media beast is large, and the available subjects/victims are few, they become like lemmings. If one cameraman jumps off a cliff, with his camera pointed down, the rest assume there's a story down there, and hurriedly follow. This morning's *cliff*? "Why are there more of *us* (media) than *them* (regular humans)? Is nobody else coming?" That was the buzz, and the tack coverage took at first. If these guys would have one less beer at night, and one more cup of coffee in the morning, they might have noticed it was 7am....three hours before the memorial service. Nevermind that, they grilled everyone in sight, 3 or 4 times, including Alan.

14k-media cannibalismMe? Being *marked* by the lack of credentials around my neck (even one of those "Do Not Disturb/Please Clean Room" doorknob hangers on a string would have helped) I just tried to look busy with my cameras, so they'd think I was "one of them," and leave me alone. Although, at an event this large, with hundreds of media circling a few dozen regular humans, media cannibalism has been known to occur. It's not pretty, but it's part of the process of natural selection.

27k-media swarmIf you will, allow me one more media metaphor. At times, they're like a school of hammerhead sharks. The large TV cameras on their shoulders even look like "fins", cruising above the surface of the crowd. And when they see more than three "fins" gather around someone quotable/colorful/tasty (i.e., blood in the water), they quickly push through the crowd to join the feeding frenzy. Before long (about 30 seconds), their sheer mass crushes whatever was so interesting to begin with, or frames it with a wall of $100,000 of optics, $10,000 in microphones, and ten bucks worth of No.2 pencils.

There are well over 15,000 accredited journalists in town (Lord knows how many others), and their overwhelming numbers on the scene seem to influence their coverage, just by the nature of its *pack* mentality. As I told Alan after his third interview, when you go to the Olympic zoo, please don't feed the media. You just encourage them to continue pesterin' folks.

To see MORE PHOTOS of the Return to Centennial Park, go to the NEXT PAGE

[click the cauldron
for more stuff I saw]

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