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Thursday, 13 September, 2001, 17:53 GMT 18:53 UK
Wave of patriotism sweeps grieving US
Fire crews unfurl the US flag at the Pentagon
Americans are showing their defiance after the attacks
By BBC News Online's David Schepp

Sales of US flags and a surge in patriotic fervour have enveloped the US as Americans unite in the wake of the attacks on Tuesday.

The nation's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, says it has sold more than 19 times the normal amount of flags and other retailers say they too have sold out.

Construction worker Michael Summa
The Stars and Stripes are on display everywhere
On Wednesday night, an impromptu gathering of about 500 people sang songs in front of the White House in Washington.

They lit candles and held up signs of support before dispersing.

Enquiries about joining the nation's armed services have swelled, too.

The rise in patriotism is a normal response to such attacks on the sovereignty of a nation, said Barry Glassner, a sociologist at the University of Southern California.

He told BBC News Online: "The question becomes... what will happen in the coming weeks.

Fly the flag

"You cannot sustain for very long the feeling that we are all going to fly the flag and feel patriotic."

Randy Beard, vice president of sales for Annin & Co., a New Jersey-based flag maker, said: "Most of our customers are gearing up for a run on flags - just like what happened during Desert Storm."

US flags decorate a store under construction
Flag makers are running out of stocks

In New York's Times Square, just a few miles from the fallen World Trade Center towers, a wall of American flags decorates the site of a Toys R Us store currently under construction.

Construction worker Michael Summa, whose hard hat sprouts a miniature Stars and Stripes, said the flags were the idea of his boss, Ralph Thompson, who runs Sciama construction company.

He told BBC News Online that Mr Thompson went to a hardware store and bought every flag it had.

All over the nation, flags have sprouted up on front porches, store-fronts and apartment windows as have hand-painted signs with sentiments such as "God Bless America" and "We will rebuild".

Overwhelming response

Other signs of patriotic feeling have emerged, too. Among the first was a gathering of members of Congress on the Capitol steps to sing "God Bless America".

Richard Gephardt, Democrat leader in the House of Representatives, said: "On this occasion we are once again showing the world what it means to be an American."

In New York, the city's residents have responded overwhelmingly to calls for blood, food and clothing.

"Their spirit is tremendous," said New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. "This city is the greatest city in the world, and a bunch of cowardly terrorists cannot make us fearful."

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