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LA Firefighters Honor NY Colleagues - 2001-09-13

Firefighters in Los Angeles are holding a vigil in honor of their colleagues who died in the collapse of New York's World Trade Center. As some people express sympathy, others are voicing anger over the terrorist attacks. Local leaders are urging calm, as life in the city begins to return to normal.

At a memorial site for firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty, firefighters from local departments are taking turns, standing silently two-by-two, in honor of their colleagues on the East Coast. The five-day vigil will continue until next Tuesday.

Captain Thomas Dutton of the Los Angeles County Fire Department speaks about those lost in the rescue effort, and their families. He says the images on television have been difficult to deal with. "All I can think of is that there are so many children out there without mothers and fathers right now," he said. "And I just wanted to go home and hug my children and tell them I love them, and my wife. It's been very hard, very hard for me."

Along with the voices of sympathy, there have been scattered incidents of vandalism against Islamic centers near Chicago, in Texas, and elsewhere around the country. The Islamic center in Los Angeles has received threatening phone calls.

One Los Angeles official appealed for calm and unity as the investigation continues into the terrorist incidents. Los Angeles county supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite-Burke says regardless of the identities of those responsible, religion and ethnicity have no place in the discussion. "I would say to some of those people who are hysterical and who want retribution, let's not blame the innocent," she said. "The people of Los Angeles are not the people who are responsible for any of the things that have happened. And let's not take it out on any individual."

The official had praise for Los Angeles police, who are providing special protection for Arab-Americans and Islamic community centers.

Air traffic in the United States was grounded on Tuesday in the wake of the terrorist attacks. On Thursday, many airports reopened to limited traffic, and Los Angeles residents who had been stranded far from home began returning.

Jane Thompson was on an Alitalia flight from Rome to Los Angeles, which was diverted on Tuesday to Calgary, Canada. Thursday, she arrived back in Los Angeles. She said the events of the past week have not frightened her or her husband, or made them reluctant to travel by air in the future. "This is not going to keep us down," she said. "This is not going to keep us from traveling and enjoying the world. We just have to have better security measures, that's all."

People on the West Coast are expressing a range of emotions over the terrorist attacks, including anger. But the overriding emotion may be sympathy for the victims. Prayer vigils continue at Los Angeles houses of worship, in schools and community centers. And here, as throughout the United States, people are waiting in line for hours at blood donation centers, hoping to help in a tangible way with the East Coast rescue effort.