Nervous America does Hallowe'en (almost) as usual

War on Terrorism: Public Anxiety
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The Independent US

America did Hallowe'en after all. Mostly, anyway. Children roamed neighbourhoods and swarmed around apartment buildings to snatch sweets from strangers, adults dressed up in silly outfits and, in New York City, thousands watched the annual Greenwich Village parade of ghouls and ghosts and plain old weirdos.

America did Hallowe'en after all. Mostly, anyway. Children roamed neighbourhoods and swarmed around apartment buildings to snatch sweets from strangers, adults dressed up in silly outfits and, in New York City, thousands watched the annual Greenwich Village parade of ghouls and ghosts and plain old weirdos.

The exuberance that always marks the Manhattan parade was still perfectly in evidence this year. However, police officials noted that attendance was markedly down from the normal one million or so that have been seen at the event in recent years. And security along the parade route was noticeably tighter.

Across the US, the scene was the same: Americans tried not to allow the shocks of recent weeks to deflect them from enjoying the normal Hallowe'en festivities. But they went about their fun slightly differently. Fewer children were allowed to trick-or-treat on their own. And patriotic red, white and blue was competing this year with the traditional orange of pumpkins and jack-o'-lanterns.

More Uncle Sams and Statues of Liberty than anyone could count joined the throng marching through the Village on Sixth Avenue. The crowds gave their loudest cheers to officers of the New York Police Department leading the parade on horseback. One shopping mall in the Midwest invited parents to bring their children to collect goodies from retailers. They called it the "Red, White and Boo Party".

The Manhattan parade, tainted slightly by the smell of burning still wafting from the rubble of ground zero, was at once an opportunity for New Yorkers to let their hair down a little and to give some artistic and sometimes humorous expression to their feelings about the continuing terrorist threat and the war in Afghanistan.

"Give Whirled Peas a Chance" declared one sign carried by a small group of revellers dressed up in spirals of small green balloons depicting the vegetable. A man dressed – or barely dressed – as a traditional Japanese wrestler but also wearing a long beard and Taliban-looking headgear identified himself as "A Sumo bin Laden". There were several other bin Ladens tramping the route.

The parade was also a stage for some alternative political points of view. One group carried a large float with a wardrobe on top. Its door was ajar revealing death, in the form of two hanging skeletons. The entire contraption was identified simply as the "American Foreign Policy Closet".

Lisa Lee of Queens said she had not been to the Hallowe'en parade for several years. "We need this, maybe more than ever right now. I felt like I needed to come out and see people just having a good time for a change."

Nerves are also frayed because of the anthrax scare. Parents who went trick-or-treating with their children generally reported the same thing: they went with them and when the sweets were all collected they were thrown away – for fear they were contaminated – and substituted with others.

Greg Rapport, who lives in New Jersey, said: "You make it go on for the kids. But at the adult level, I think we all feel pretty vulnerable."

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