FBI Swamped With Applicants Post-Sept. 11

The FBI says there has been an incredible response to its plea for applicants. Two schools near Ground Zero reopen. At the Superbowl, U2 leads a tribute to America and the victims of Sept. 11.

FBI Swamped With High-Quality Applicants

L O S A N G E L E S , Feb. 4 — The FBI has been receiving numerous high-quality applications as it rushes to meet a nationwide goal of hiring more than 900 agents in the next eight months. One of the toughest challenges facing the agency is sorting through the thousands of applications received since the terrorist attacks. "It's busier than I've ever seen it," said Jan Caldwell, an FBI spokeswoman in San Diego and agent for 27 years. "And the quality of the applicants is just incredible. We are literally getting rocket scientists applying." Several doctors, a tax lawyer and applicants with degrees in philosophy, electrical engineering and computer science have applied, she said. The FBI has about 11,000 agents worldwide and typically receives 25,000 applications a year, Caldwell estimated. "In the past, the spikes in people applying to be agents came from television or the movies," Caldwell said. "First came Efrem Zimbalist Jr.'s FBI series. Then there was Silence of the Lambs. In the '90s, it was X Files. This time it was Sept. 11, and that obviously makes a difference." The agency's Los Angeles office was receiving about 100 job applications a day after Sept. 11, but the number has dropped off recently, said Annette Nowak, a recruiting agent for the office. The four FBI offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento annually process about 11 percent of the FBI's total of recruits nationwide. From 1996 to this year, the four primary FBI offices in California tested 4,724 applicants and 466 recruits were offered employment. When the agency announced its hiring goal last month, the FBI said its priorities are recruits with computer, engineering, science and foreign language skills, especially languages such as Arabic, Farsi, Pashtu and Urdu. Skills in other languages, including Spanish, Russian and Japanese, remain in high demand. About one-third of the 900,000 Arab-Americans in the United States live in Los Angeles and Orange counties. The high number of applicants should help the bureau meet its recruiting goals, but sorting through all the applications could slow the process down. "It cuts both ways," said San Diego's Caldwell. "But the bureau usually meets its hiring goals and we will probably meet them this year. We need them more than ever before."

—The Associated Press

Schools Near WTC Site Reopen

N E W Y O R K, Feb. 4 — The rhythm of the 5-day-old school year broke on the morning of Sept. 11 at P.S. 234. Students huddled in shuttered classrooms and evacuated the school as the World Trade Center burned and collapsed three blocks away. Today, four months and two temporary schools later, 6-year-old Dashiell Lieberman leaned forward and cut a red ribbon tied around the school's closed metal gates. Hundreds of students rushed into the courtyard. For parents, children, teachers and administrators, relief at their return mixed with disturbing memories of the World Trade Center attack. "I'm not going to talk about that today," principal Anna Switzer said. "It's been a terrible time for the families. … It's exhilarating to be back. It's absolutely wonderful." Six hundred students from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade attend the school. The Parent Teacher Association voted in December to return to the school after extensive cleaning and environmental testing had been completed. The association appropriated $25,000 for the cleaning and testing. Two blocks away, P.S. 150, with 175 students, also opened Monday, but P.S. 89 in nearby Battery Park City will not reopen until later. Natasjah DeFalco, 6, said she was happy to be back at P.S. 234 although she clearly remembered the events of Sept. 11. "I was safe and sound in my classroom," she said. "It wasn't scary for me but it was scary for my mommy."

—The Associated Press

U2 Honors Sept. 11 Victims in Super Bowl Halftime Show

N E W O R L E A N S , Feb. 4 — U2 had the Super Bowl halftime stage all to itself, and the Irish rockers delivered a moving tribute to America and the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Lead singer Bono walked onto the field with a slow swagger, singing the group's recent hit, Beautiful Day, as he climbed onto the point of a pink, heart-shaped catwalk that surrounded the stage. As the first song wound down, a giant screen scrolled the names of victims in the attacks, and the group broke into the 1980s hit, Where the Streets Have No Name. The names reflected in overlapping patterns across the stands, which were dark save for countless camera flashes. Unlike glitzy halftime shows of the past, the effects were limited to standard strobe lights. But all attention was on Bono anyway, who pulled back his lapel to reveal an American flag to the roars of the crowd. Sunday's pregame lineup opened with the Boston Pops. Wearing white coats and black bow ties, the musicians drew enthusiastic applause when they finished their first session with Stars and Stripes Forever. The pregame lineup also featured Paul McCartney, Barry Manilow, Marc Anthony, Mary J. Blige, Patti LaBelle, James Ingram, Wynonna, Yolanda Adams and Mariah Carey. Carey, wearing a long, royal blue dress, performed the national anthem for the first time, and her renowned high vocal range peppered several verses. As she sang with the stadium lights down, fans in the Superdome's three levels held red, white and blue glow sticks. A giant American flag in the shape of the United States was unfurled on the field. Producers said most of the musical performers prerecorded their sound tracks to reduce the possibility of technical problems. U2 played live. The pregame show also included a video of current and former star players reading the Declaration of Independence. In another video, former presidents Carter, Clinton, Ford and Bush joined Nancy Reagan in quoting Abraham Lincoln. The videos concluded with fans chanting "U-S-A!" McCartney, who was in New York when the hijacked planes struck the World Trade Center, sang his Sept. 11-inspired song, "Freedom." McCartney took the stage, acoustic guitar in hand, as cheerleaders with silver, glittering pompoms spelled out "freedom" across the field. Others marched with dozens of flags from foreign nations. "I'm proud to be here and stand up with America," McCartney said in a TV interview shortly before halftime ended. Earlier, LaBelle, Ingram, Wynonna and Adams joined Manilow in singing "Let Freedom Ring," a song Manilow wrote years ago to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution. As the group sang, servicemen marched around the perimeter of the field with American flags while women wearing red, white or blue statue-of-liberty outfits marched in front of the stage. The song concluded with a young boy in a camouflage military uniform ringing a replica of the Liberty Bell. Anthony and Blige then sang "America the Beautiful," accompanied by the Pops and flanked by flag-bearing law officers.

—The Associated Press

Miami Veteran to Walk 8,000 Miles to Fund Sept. 11 Memorial

N E W O R L E A N S , Feb. 4 — A Vietnam veteran said he will set out Tuesday on a 20-month, 8,000-mile walk across the nation to raise money for a Sept. 11 memorial. Chuck Fluent, 51, said he will leave from Miami City Hall and walk up U.S. 1 to New York state. He plans to cross the Midwest to Oregon, turn south through California and come back east through Texas, ending his trip in Georgia. Fluent said he will walk about 15 miles a day, pulling a 120-pound cart with his sleeping bag and necessities, and camp out most nights. He hopes to raise $150,000 to build a memorial. During the Vietnam War, Fluent's leg was injured by shrapnel and after a 1995 motorcycle accident destroyed most of his right kneecap, doctors told him he would never walk again. The next year he walked from Idaho to Connecticut raise money for children of disabled veterans. He invited other veterans to join him for portions of this walk. "It's about solidarity, it's about vets showing they still care," Fluent said.

—The Associated Press