ATLANTA BOMB: Atlanta: defiant city under siege

The aftermath
Click to follow
The Independent Online
"A City too busy to hate", has long been Atlanta's unofficial slogan. The bomber of the Olympic Games drove a dent into the myth and yesterday Atlanta was in a state of siege.

And yet the good citizens of Atlanta, and their Olympic visitors, appeared indeed to be too busy to hate, too busy even to fear. Even before President Clinton appeared on national TV to urge Americans not to be intimidated by acts of terror, the streets of Atlanta were packed with people who evidently needed no lessons in calm.

Three generations of the Piper family, 11 people ranging in age from six to 66, marched down Spring Street yesterday, all wearing matching red, white and blue shirts. Three blocks away FBI investigators were combing the wreckage of the bomb for clues. Were they not alarmed? Shouldn't the children be home? "Hell, no. We're having a wonderful time," beamed Dan Piper, the family member in charge of the patriotic outing. No doubts about being out on the streets? "It only puts a doubt in my mind about humanity, and maybe it brings home to Americans that the terror around the world is now close to home."

But Mr Piper and his eager-faced family seemed no more prepared to restrain their native optimism than the ticket touts who were out in force on the streets all day yesterday. One red-haired tout in a green sleeveless vest and shorts, an image out of Venice Beach, California, was having to fend customers away. His name was Mark. So, sales had not gone down? "What, because of the bombs? No!" Why not? "Because people reckon the chances of another bomb going off and hitting them are tiny."

A man from Arizona, noting that he had paid for a full weekend on tickets and had no intention of losing on his investment, ventured the comforting thought that "the Games are probably safer now than they were last night".

Back in Atlanta, in the heart of downtown, a man appeared on a street corner who finally seemed to capture what ought to have been the appropriate mood for the day. In a crew-cut, grey trousers, tie and shirt, holding a black Bible in his left hand, a preacher bellowed at the Saturday morning revellers: "After the party, the judgement! After the lust, the judgement! After the murder, the judgement! It is appointed that man will die! YOU have an appointment with death!"

Hundreds were strolling past but no one seemed to be paying any attention until a pot-bellied man in a "Bud Lite" T-shirt shouted back, to a ripple of amusement:"Sober up, buddy!"