Only one of the 750 volunteers staffing the park begged off the job after the bomb, but 60 others requested extra hours. Darlene Dickinson of McDonough, Ga., listened quietly as her husband declared she would never go back to work in that cursed park again, waited until he had gone to work and then dressed, slipped out of the house and went right back to her post. Sonia Fernandez, a 55-year-old volunteer who had fled Havana after Castro's revolution, had to get back to the park, as a way to thank America for giving her refuge and opportunity, as a way to show that the terrorist bombs that had killed her cousin 3½ decades ago in Havana and had kept her holed up in her home in fear could not do that to her now as an adult U.S. citizen. "All the memories of the bombs that Castro's followers set off in Havana when I was young came back to me," she said. "I had to go back to the park. Everyone did, and it was a victory for Atlanta and the American people. A total victory."
And so she was there two mornings after the bomb, scrubbing blood from benches and trash cans, scrubbing and crying, readying the park so that tens of thousands more could come to the memorial service and cry too, so that a spectacular slice of Americana could unfold. Renee and Jordan Pilzer of Marietta, Ga., came through the mob pushing a double stroller. Their six-and four-year-olds were not in it. Instead, the stroller carried a pair of helium tanks the Pilzers had rented so they could inflate hundreds of balloons and pass them out to celebrate this triumph of the little guy. "For two days after the bomb," said Jordan, "I kept saying, 'We've got to do something, we've got to turn this negative into a positive.' This is better than any of the Olympic events I went to. This park will be our legacy, our memorial to hope and peace."
Around him, some people were dropping to their knees to pray at the site. Some were clinging to each other, some strumming guitars, some beating on tambourines and singing hymns. Some began leaving mementos on the grass. Some began chanting, "U-S-A! U-S-A!" Others, hoping to get on the Today show being telecast live by Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric from the grassy knoll, chanted, "BRY-ant! BRY-ant!" Andrew Young took the stage to deliver a short, strong speech about renewal, about comeback. Then, with slow-motion images of athletes playing across a giant screen topped by huge blue letters proclaiming AT&T GLOBAL OLYMPIC VILLAGE and a woman singing the sort of song that can be heard in every other commercial on TV—"No matter where you are, reach for your own star, to realize the power of the dream!"—people of all colors clasped hands and wept honest tears once more, at which point two men hired by AT&T picked up microphones and announced, "Welcome back to Centennial Park! And welcome back to AT&T Global Olympic Village!"
The selling could begin anew, with even more zest, now that it could ride piggyback on the feeling, now that the spirit of the people and the spirit of the merchandising were in perfect harmony, both singing of overcoming all limits, of endless possibility. And no matter how long you stood there and tried to sort it out, to split one from the other, you couldn't—that's how masterfully the two had been welded together by this phenomenon known as the 1996 Olympic Games. Who but the hardest of men could have taken it all in and not welled up?
The memorial site kept growing as the Games drew to their close, as did the variety of mementos. Here and there among the flowers and flags and Olympic pins on the piece of land set aside to remember the injured and dead, there were now business cards.