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CNN Today

Thousands Gather to Mourn Death of Dale Earnhardt

Aired February 20, 2001 - 2:19 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: All across America, NASCAR fans continue to mourn the death of Dale Earnhardt, building shrines of flowers and other memorabilia to mark the passing of the NASCAR legend. There are several memorials planned for this week. One of the first is later today at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. We'll see that event live at 4:00 p.m. Eastern this afternoon.

Also, the body of Dale Earnhardt is back in North Carolina. A private ceremony for family and friends is planned for Thursday in Charlotte, North Carolina. In Mooresville today, fans continue to gather outside the Dale Earnhardt corporate offices.

And following events in Mooresville, Brian Cabell, who joins us from there -- Brian.

BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Lou. Let me just make clear, this service on Thursday that we've heard about from NASCAR is not the funeral. The funeral home has called us and said that is not the funeral. It is a funeral for NASCAR people, the business people. Private family members have been invited as well, but this is not the funeral. We are still awaiting word from the family and from Dale Earnhardt, Inc. as to exactly when the funeral will be held and where it will be held. We suspect sometime later this week.

But again, no official word on the funeral or a larger memorial service for the public. If that happens, it likely will happen in the next three or four days. But we're hoping to get word on that later on this afternoon.

In the meantime, as you mentioned, this shrine here, the people here continue to grow. The shrine is now about 75 yards long. It was 10 yards long yesterday morning. It continues to grow. People continue to come in. Among the people who arrived here, well, we have the Carroll family. We have Mrs. Carroll, her son Jeff Carroll.

Jeff, you came all the way from West Virginia. What is it about Dale Earnhardt that was so appealing to you?

JEFF CARROLL, EARNHARDT FAN: Probably his aggressive driving. It made the racing more exciting, and I've been a fan for 20 years and this is really devastating for everybody that's followed Dale Earnhardt.

CABELL: Mrs. Carroll, as a human being, what did you like about him?

CAROLYN CARROLL, EARNHARDT FAN: That he was a family man, that he loved his family, his wife and his children and the way that I could see him on TV with Dale Jr., the closeness that they had and his mama and his daddy and everything else like that.

CABELL: Thank you very much. Once again, let's take a look at the crowd here. The crowd size has remained constant almost all day. I would say we 300 to 400 people who have been here all day long. As two or three leave, then more follow. We have probably a half mile long section of cars here and last night, a number of people. The crowds get larger as nighttime goes along.

But again, through the day, we have literally hundreds of people coming through here. And what do they do? They drop off mementos, balloons. We have a can of beer. One dropped off a can of beer, Budweiser. We have cards; messages; letters; flowers, floral arrangements of all sorts; private letters, very private letters from children; flags, Daytona flags; balloons, black and white balloons, red balloons.

You name it. People have come by with just about anything. A lot of thought put into some of these. Others, people simply walked up with a magic marker and make messages on the wall. But it is a remarkable array of mementos that people have come by with. Racing tires they've come by with that you're looking at there. One of the Goodyear tires that Dale Earnhardt may have run with at one point.

So once again, a large number of mementos, a large crowd. We have talked to a number of people in the crowd here today. They would like to have some large memorial service where they can celebrate Dale Earnhardt's life. They have told us they're hoping there's going to be something in the next three or four days so they can come by, not only come here to Dale Earnhardt, Inc. but celebrate his life in a memorial service, maybe at Lowe's Motor Speedway, which is about 30 miles from here.

But still, Lou, no official word on exactly when a memorial service will be, when a funeral will be. We're hoping to get that later on today. Back to you.

WATERS: OK, Brian. It's quite astounding the outpouring for Dale Earnhardt. We'll continue to follow the story. That's Brian Cabell in North Carolina following the story from there.

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