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Denmark Mourns US Victims of Terror - 2001-09-14


Millions of people around the world have observed a moment of silence - in schools, on streets, or just at home - to honor the memory of those killed in the terrorist attacks in the United States. Some countries, such as Denmark, held national memorial services.

At one minute to noon there was a mood of anxious anticipation in Copenhagen. Traffic in the city ground to a halt. 5,000 people huddled together in the town hall square, speaking in hushed tones, as the clock struck.

Two minutes later, bystanders began to hug each other, and to wipe away the tears. And just as they had gathered in silence, so they drifted slowly away, a few lingering at the small pile of flowers surrounded by candles lying in the center of the square.

70-year-old Leif Jacobsen stood for a long time after the others had gone. He says he has been on this square for many memorable occasions, and could think of being no place else at a time like this. "I was here on the 29th August 1943, when the Germans took over the whole government during the occupation, and I saw German tanks rolling along here," he said. "And also I was here on 4 May 1945, when the liberation of Denmark took place, so I think this is the center of events for people in Copenhagen."

The gathering on Copenhagen's town square included not only the typical blond, blue-eyed Scandinavian types, but also a large number of first and second generation Danes, refugees from Muslim countries who now call Denmark their home. Some of the women still wear the traditional head covering of their native countries.

Asif Riaz, who was born in Pakistan, says the events of the past few days make him think the world is filled with evil. "We people, Europeans and Americans, they call themselves civilized," he said. "I don't believe we are civilized because people are dying all over the world. Chechnya, Kashmir, Palestine. People are dying all over the world."

One of Denmark's most prominent Muslims, Copenhagen City Council member Hamid el-Mousti, says no matter who is eventually found responsible, these terrorist attacks have shaken the support many Muslims feel for the Palestinians. "We do feel there is injustice against Palestinian people," said Councilman el-Mousti. " But it does not excuse the big crime that has occurred in the United States. It is beyond belief."

In the crowd of grieving people was a lone, but visible dissenter, Bo Richard, who traveled from his home in northern Denmark for the day. He carried a sign blaming the United States - and the financial interests it represents - for the attack.

The terrorism of September 11 has caused many Scandinavians to re-think their ideas about their place in the world. Analysts quoted Friday in Swedish and international media say Tuesday's attacks have prompted Sweden to drop its neutral stance and come out solidly in favor of the West.

Countries are also looking to what they can do in the short term. The Danish government, acting on reports that many Danes and other foreigners had been among the victims, is sending a team of doctors to New York Monday to help Scandinavians hurt in the disaster.

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