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Lennon sites let fans come together

As fans gather to pay tribute to John Lennon on the 20th anniversary of his death, they've moved beyond vigils in Central Park and Liverpool to another forum: the Web.

As fans gather to pay tribute to John Lennon on the 20th anniversary of his death, they've moved beyond vigils in Central Park and Liverpool to another forum: the Web.

Tribute sites are cropping up across the Web to commemorate the former Beatle, who was killed outside of his New York apartment by fan Mark Chapman on Dec. 8, 1980.

The outpouring of sentiment underscored how the Internet is a gathering point of communities in times of crisis and significant events, giving people a place to share their thoughts with others.

Among the sites that are attracting fans, Bagism.com has a page dedicated to the anniversary and lets fans leave their thoughts. The site also contains a library discography, fan art, poetry, a quiz on Lennon and Beatles trivia.

"John, you've been more than a pop idol to me. You're an indescribably amazing musician, poet, lyricist, and activist. Your voice still gives me chills," wrote one fan.

Another wrote: "Although all these tributes are absolutely wonderful...we should remember and celebrate the life of John every single day that we live."

Tribute sites weren't the only ones drawing Lennon fans Friday. His son, Julian Lennon, is also receiving a plethora of hits on his official Web site. Even the younger Lennon marked the occasion with a statement about musical and emotional influences of his father.

The Beatles "were a great influence on my life musically," Julian Lennon wrote on the site. But "I just wanted to say that wherever (John Lennon) is I hope he realises the mistakes he's made as I realise them and hope never to repeat them."

Glasgow-based Silkhouse Website Design, which created the site, said it has received about 10,000 hits per week over the last few months, but because of the anniversary it had received more than 1 million hits Friday morning. He estimated that the site could receive 2 million to 4 million hits in the 24-hour period.

"We knew there was going to be great interest because we've had major coverage here in the U.K. and the States--I think all over the world, really," said Derek Gibson, operations director for Silkhouse. "This is unprecedented."

Gibson said the overwhelming response caused a minor crash to the site's mailing list as a huge number of fans joined Friday, but after two to three hours, Silkhouse was able to fix the problem, he said.

In addition to the crash, there was a broken link to Julian's statement. Gibson said he thought it might be because of the number of hits that page was receiving. The statement was available this afternoon.

The Net has become a popular forum for sharing opinions about news-related events--everything from the Clinton scandal to airline disasters. But in some respects commemorative sites have eclipsed that popularity.

Three years ago, special sites were created to commemorate the first anniversary of Princess Diana's death. Media companies such as the British Broadcasting Corp. and the Guardian designed sites to mark the occasion. At the time, Amazon.com also created a site devoted to books, music and other items related to Diana.