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Tribute to victims of AIDS grows

Thousands of people walking in the shadow of the Washington Monument visited the 15-acre grid of the AIDS memorial quilt Saturday, reading the names and the tributes on 22,000 commemorative panels.

And even as the crowd threaded the maze-like walkways separating the quilt into large squares, the memorial to those who have died of AIDS grew measurably larger.

Friends and family members lined up at a string of tables stretching 50 feet across the grass to present new panels commemorating even more people who have died of the disease.

"We must have taken in more than a thousand," one volunteer said.

Volunteers accepted the panels, verified the names on them, assigned each a number and placed them on growing stacks.

Others spread the panels on the grass and attached each section. Some incorporated photographs, or poetry or sheet music. One contained a well-worn leather jacket. Another a Boy Scout uniform. Still another a teddy bear.

After waiting for the rain-soaked monument grounds to dry, some 3,000 volunteers worked systematically to unfurl the sections of the existing quilt and align them along the walkways.

Many visitors searched for a familiar name.

And as they walked, more volunteers read into microphones the names of those memorialized by the quilt, name by name. The readers often personalized the task, adding the names of friends, relatives and lovers who have died of acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

Organizers said they expect more than 300,000 people to view the quilt over the weekend.