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Published: Tuesday, 12/11/2001

Patriotic lights shine in honor of terror victims


Tonight, the Toledo area is going to be red, white, and blue all over.

Several thousand people inside and outside the city have registered by telephone or on the Internet to participate in the city's “Unity Tree” campaign scheduled to begin with simultaneous tree lightings at 6:05 p.m.

The city is trying to compile a list of more than 4,000 people from around the region who have decorated their tree with red, white, and blue lights. The idea is to have at least one tree for each person who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Sign-up for the program will continue through Dec. 24, but it officially begins when those involved are asked to plug in their lights just after 6.

He will host a patriotic ceremony at 5:45 p.m. today at the Civic Mall Plaza, where the city's 35-foot blue spruce evergreen with 3,500 lights will be lit.

Kerri Rochelle, an aide to the mayor, said that as of yesterday, the mayor's office had about 2,200 registrations and that about 100 more received by telephone had yet to be entered into the database.

According to the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, the death toll estimate from the terrorist attacks is 4,124, including 3,881 in New York, 198 in Washington, and 45 in the Pennsylvania field where hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 crashed, Ms. Rochelle said.

She said she suspects there are plenty of people who have decorated trees or homes with red, white, and blue lights, but haven't registered, either by calling (419) 936-2648 or visiting the seetoledo.com web site.

Those who don't already have the appropriate lights at their homes may have a hard time participating in the Unity Tree campaign because reds and blues are in short supply.

“They've been selling real good,” said Marc Losek, a clerk in the trim-a-tree department at The Andersons general store in Maumee, which exhausted its supply before Thanksgiving. “We've got quite a few customers asking if we have them or when we're going to get them, and I'm not sure we'll be able to get anymore.”

Kmart, Target, and Meijer stores across the region reported being sold out of the lights.

The city's registration list includes substantial numbers of people from Toledo's neighbors, including Perrysburg, Oregon, Maumee, Holland, Swanton, Waterville, Walbridge, Genoa, and Bowling Green, Ms. Rochelle said, along with scatterings from throughout northwest Ohio.

School children are getting into the spirit too. At the Park Lane Retirement Community on 23rd Street, a group from Warren Elementary School today is scheduled to meet with residents and add patriotic ornaments to a Unity Tree decorated with red, white, and blue lights.

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