Memorial Candles Light Up the Skies

The dark, evening air around the world Friday was alight with the flickering flames of candles, thanks to a grassroots campaign that relied on e-mails and fliers to spread word of the event.

It isn't clear where the idea originated, or how many received e-mails about it. In New York City, people from Lincoln Center to Union Square huddled together with lit candles to remember the dead and show support for the missing.

Dr. Nicholas Zhdanoff-Lutsenko, a candidate running for office in Moscow's lower parliament, came to the Lincoln Center memorial "to commemorate all the victims, because I might have been one of them."

Zhdanoff-Lutsenko said he traveled to New York for a United Nations conference and left the World Trade Center for the U.N. minutes before the attacks began. He was listed as missing by some of Moscow's daily newspapers.

"I still can't believe it," Zhdanoff-Lutsenko said. "I'm one of the survivors. I was near the building."

Patricia Davis, a New York City transit director who lives in Brooklyn, came to the vigil with her friends to "show our solidarity and concern and pray for all those lost."

"We are one nation, we are one people," Davis said. "It helps me remember that we are all one."

Flanked by giant American flags on the front of each of Lincoln Center's three main buildings, those in attendance released red balloons into the sky. As the vigil came to a close, the candles were placed on the edge of the Center's fountain and the crowd sang "America the Beautiful."

The e-mail about the candlelighting made its way around the country and the world Thursday and Friday.

"Friday night at 7:00 PM, step out your door, stop your car, or step out of your establishment and light a candle," stated the note, forwarded by hundreds to "We will show that the world stands united against terrorism."

"Please pass this to everyone on your e-mail list," it read. "We need to reach everyone around the world quickly. The message: WE STAND UNITED - WE WILL NOT TOLERATE TERRORISM."

One person who circulated the e-mail is Larry Savage, a retired Air Force captain from Elkins, W.Va.

"I felt it was my duty to 'carry the torch,'" he explained. "After spending 23 years of devoted duty to my country, it is only a natural thing to do."

At least one company, the online designer clothing retailer, endorsed the event by forwarding a version of the note to everyone on its corporate mailing list – between 700,000 and one million people, according to CEO Ken Seiff.

"We were very moved by it – we thought it was a terrific idea and we hope it comes to pass," Seiff said. "We thought we’d show our support and try to get the word out."

Seiff said gestures like the candlelighting event send a poignant message to the terrorists involved in the unspeakable violence committed Tuesday at the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington.

"It sends a message that the intent to divide and destroy the American people and tarnish democracy is not successful, and in fact the opposite can take place," he said. "People can unite and strengthen - and democracy, civilization and the human spirit can grow stronger."

Thousands of Americans turned out in towns and cities around the country to take part in the candlelighting on Friday.

President George W. Bush on Wednesday declared Sept. 14 a national day of remembrance, just three days after America was bloodied by the most devastating terrorist attacks ever to be committed on its soil.