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Disneyland falls silent to remember attack victims
( 2001-09-15 09:28 ) (7 )

Disneyland, which calls itself "the happiest place on earth," turned somber on Friday as guests, employees, and even Mickey Mouse himself stopped to remember those lost in Tuesday's attacks.

Observing a moment of silence in keeping with a request to the nation by President George W. Bush, the country's best-known theme park shut down its rides, shows and music as guests on Main Street turned away from the famous pink Sleeping Beauty Castle looming in the distance to face flags flying in a make-believe town square and stand in silent reflection, some wiping tears from their eyes.

Even wide-eyed children, following their parents' lead, kept quiet and stood completely still, as the emotional crowd, prompted by a friendly, prerecorded voice, sang "God Bless America" and red, white and blue balloons -- some decorated with smiley faces and shaped like the heads of famous cartoon mice -- were released skyward.

The Walt Disney Co. closed its US parks on Tuesday after hijacked planes slammed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, leaving hundreds dead and thousands still missing in the worst attack on US soil since the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. The parks reopened on Wednesday.

Park officials said attendance at Disneyland on Friday was typical for a weekday in September. Disney does not release exact attendance figures for its parks. However security at the park was tight with both uniformed and plain clothes officers patrolling parking lots, searching guests' bags, and closely monitoring activity inside the park.


The most popular rides, Indiana Jones and Space Mountain, which one little boy told Reuters were "scariest" and "fastest," respectively, saw typically long lines.

However an attraction called "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" which, with its excerpts from speeches made by the 16th US president is not always considered competition for the park's fastest and scariest, has also been packed since the park reopened Wednesday, Disney spokesman Ray Gomez said.

"It's a very patriotic show and people are drawn to that even more so than normal. It's full every performance," Gomez said.

Anaheim resident Monica Cuyong, 26, said she took two of her three children out of school and brought them, along with her 10-month-old baby, to Disneyland to get them away from images of the devastation that have been televised continuously since the Tuesday terror attack. "There's too much sadness," she said.

Dawn O'Neill, a 34-year-old from New Mexico, said she brought her 4-year-old daughter Alexis to the park for the same reason.

"I want to shelter her," O'Neill said. "She's smart enough to know that it's a very sad day, even at her age. A very bad thing has happened but it's important for her to understand about our flag and what our country represents.

"She needs to see that she lives in greatest country in the world," O'Neill said.

O'Neill said she moved to New Mexico from New York, where she had been a hairdresser near the World Trade Center, and knows about 30 people who are still missing, including her ex-partner who showed up periodically in the offices of Morgan Stanley to cut and style hair and had been there about 45 minutes visiting her clients the morning the twin towers were devastated.


Joe Dooley, 43, of Kansas City, Kansas, said he and his wife and three young sons arrived in California last Saturday before the attack and spent a few days in San Diego before visiting Disneyland. The park, he said, is a good diversion for small children. "We have young kids. We're going to have a good vacation and deal with the tragedy next Saturday if and when we get home," he said.

"This is our first time in America," said Laticia Mills of Australia, who planned to fly out of the United States with her husband, Dale, Tuesday after a three-week American vacation, which, they said they now regret did not include New York City before Tuesday's attack.

Instead the 20-something couple found themselves stuck at Disneyland until around Sept. 27, when Malaysia Airlines told them a flight would be available.

As the days wore on, the couple said, money was becoming increasingly tight. However, Dale added, "We couldn't leave Disneyland without buying our Mickey Mouse souvenirs."



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