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Battlefield event draws thousands for MSO sounds, fireworks

July 07, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were mourned as part of the 17th annual 'Salute to Independence' on Saturday at Antietam National Battlefield that featured music by the Maryland Symphony Orchestra and fireworks.

Battlefield Superintendent John W. Howard estimated 38,000 to 40,000 people attended the event. About 32,000 people attended the event last year, he said.

"We have a very exciting and reflective concert for you today," Elizabeth Schulze, MSO music director, told the crowd.

The orchestra played Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings," which has been called the unofficial American anthem of mourning.

Schulze dedicated the song to those who fought for the nation's freedom and those killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.

That song was followed by "The Thunderer" because "there is nothing America does better than thunder back," she said.

The weather cooled down enough to make for a great day, spectators said. The high temperature on Saturday was 85 degrees.

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"It's perfect," Gabrielle Ludwick of Chambersburg, Pa., said.

"You can't get any better than this," Howard said.

Security at the event was tighter this year in response to the continuing threat of terrorism, Chief Ranger Ed Wenschhof said.

About 100 National Park Service employees, Washington County Sheriff's deputies and local volunteers patrolled the park on foot, on bicycles and in vehicles, Wenschhof said. Last year, the park used a security staff of 70 people, he said.

The park service searched all suspicious or unattended bags, Wenschhof said. One National Park Service employee said he searched an unattended wagon in which he found a miniature chess set.

Several spectators said they did not notice the added security. Howard said that was good because the goal was to provide increased security while remaining unobtrusive.

The event had more meaning this year because of the attacks, spectators said.

"It is definitely going to be more nostalgic," Christine Meyer of Maugansville said.

Sitting under a canopy providing shade in the afternoon, she said the annual event is wonderful.

Her husband, Fred, said the combination of the music and the history of the battlefield usually resulted in him crying at least once during the performance and he expected this year would be no different.

"People died here to save this nation. That is what this is all about," he said.

Debbie Churchly of Falling Waters, W.Va., brought about 120 American flags to the event, handing some out to strangers. The flags were her way of paying tribute to those fighting for America, she said.

The concert was dedicated to the men and women of the armed forces who were protecting America's freedom as the country celebrates Independence Day.

As in previous years, planes from the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard from Martinsburg, W.Va., flew over the battlefield as part of the celebration.

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