A Combustible Mix

It feels "normal" again in Atlanta, whatever that means. The Goodyear blimp no longer floats over my house five times a day, and there's more in the news than the latest celebrity sighting in a trendy restaurant or the newest person to try dancing the Macarena on International Boulevard. The Olympics have come and gone.

I attempted to get to Centennial Olympic Park only once -- drawn, I suppose, by a journalist's curiosity (or just plain human nature) to see the place where "The Bomb" had gone off a week before. About 9:30 in the evening, a friend and I were in a sea of humanity creeping toward the park. New security measures were in place, and movement was extremely slow. We got about 30 yards from the entrance when word was passed through the crowd that there was another bomb. "There's a suspicious package," somebody said. "They've brought in a bomb-sniffing dog," someone else added. We decided to keep pressing on until we got a definitive word.

The definitive word came quickly: two police officers on horseback, blowing shrill whistles and waving the crowd back while the horses paced swiftly at its forward edge. The task was daunting, as they tried to turn back a mass of humanity that stretched for blocks. Parents pushing strollers or carrying children on their shoulders reacted quickly. A knot of beer-drinking young men made a joke about terrorists, then threw their fists into the air and chanted "Party! Party!" A man behind us started yelling in a panic, "Move! Move!" There was a moment when the crowd surge bordered on mayhem, and it was easy to understand how stampedes get started.

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 1996
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