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AREA ATTEMPTS TO RETURN TO NORMAL

Many Western New Yorkers tried to get back to normal Sunday, as they took advantage of the beautiful weather to turn off their television sets and take a break from a week of grim news.

Parks filled with joggers and walkers. Boats sailed past Erie Basin Marina. Others escaped to the shopping malls.

"I'm just carrying on with my regular life," said Shaggy Bowker, sitting outside Walden Galleria in Cheektowaga with his girlfriend. "I'll spend the rest of the day doing my laundry, shopping for some groceries."

The mall parking lot was packed, and many of the cars sported American flags.

Bowker, a former Army private who had been stationed in Korea, said he was accustomed to being "on alert," as many people have become in the aftermath of the disasters in New York City and Washington, D.C.

"Right now, I'm trying not to bring the attacks up constantly in conversation," he said. "It would only put me on edge."

As the nation mourns Tuesday's horror, many residents found relief in Delaware Park. But they weren't tuning out the sight of airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center's twin towers.

William Brinson and his friends get together every weekend to play basketball and socialize on the courts near the Buffalo Zoo.

In the talk between the games, conversation eventually turned to the tragedy.

"It's a return to everyday life in some ways," said Brinson, who noted that African-Americans may see the events of last week with a sense of bitter irony.

"A crisis like this unites us, but we know that in America we are really not united. We, whites and African-Americans, need to come together when there is no crisis," he said. "And, like everyone else, I watched the video of those planes in disbelief. But what's happened, has also made me think that African-Americans live with violence every day. We see pain and suffering all the time."

Phil Lomax, a Navy veteran, worried that a military buildup would mean less money for public schools, poor neighborhoods and social programs that benefit the needy. But he and his buddies emphasized that they wouldn't hesitate to fight for their country.

"We're in this together," he said. "When they blow your plane up, they don't care what your color is."

Across town on Broadway, Clifford Cummings spent his day off from his regular job behind a small produce stand he mans every weekend.

In a neighborhood where few stores carry a large selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, a steady flow of customers found an array of nice-looking peaches, grapes, squash and other goods for sale on his tables.

Talk between sales brought little mention of the attacks.

"Nobody has been discussing it," Cummings said. "Everyone seems to be maintaining a smile on their face, taking one step at a time."

e-mail: hdavis@buffnews.com

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