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New York welcomes New Year

From Deborah Feyerick
CNN New York Bureau

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The ball has dropped in New York City's Times Square as tens of thousands of people gathered to ring in the new year.

It's the largest event there since the September 11th attack in lower Manhattan. An estimated half a million people are taking part in the celebrations at Times Square.

"(People watching are) gonna see New York City and America standing tall, united, determined to celebrate our future, here in Times Square," said planner Jeffrey Strauss as the ball was put in place earlier in the evening.

While New Year's at Times Square promises to be the biggest party in the city, there was also time for reflection.

As the ball was hoisted into place, bells rang out across the city in memory of those lost in the September 11 attacks. The last time that happened was during World War II.

The mood in the wake of September 11 will be decidedly patriotic, with plenty of red, white and blue.

Led by outgoing mayor Rudy Giuliani thousands of revelers gathered in New York City's Times Square for the annual new year's celebration (January 1)

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CNN's Deborah Feyerick has more on the security preparations for the Times Square New Year's celebration (December 31)

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New Year's Eve in Times Square fact sheet 

Triangles of Waterford crystal adorning the famous ball have been engraved this year with the countries, rescue squads and flights of the victims.

Even with the threat risk in 2000, more than 1.5 million people turned out to celebrate the millennium. Police said they were ready this time, too, no matter how large the crowd.

The city was on heightened alert, so normally tight security was at an even higher level than it was during the millennium celebrations.

There will be more police officers -- nearly 7,000 of them -- along with checkpoints and hand-held metal and radiation detectors.

"It gives us a sense of security that people aren't bringing things in such as some kind of explosive device or something that they could ignite," New York Police Commission Bernard Kerik said. "We're just taking extra precautions."

Nearly 7,000 police officers will patrol Times Square as New York City rings in the new year under heightened security.  

The precautions included corralling partygoers into separate, barricaded pens, securing manholes and removing mailboxes. And no bags, briefcases or umbrellas were allowed.

"We look at it for the worst," Kerik said. "We hope for the best."

This year's ball-dropping guest of honor was the city's departing mayor, Rudy Giuliani, who rung in the new year with a push of a button.

Ultimately, the event was about a lot more than dropping the famous ball.

"The ball is a great thing and a symbol," technical producer Charlie Prideaux said. "But in the end, two million people don't show up to watch just the ball. They come for the camaraderie."


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