Hope reigns as Americans prepare to ring in 2012

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Cautious hope was the watchword elsewhere, too.

In New Orleans, crowds in the French Quarter were starting to build Friday, with New Year’s visitors rubbing elbows with college football fans flocking here for Tuesday’s Sugar Bowl matchup between Michigan and Virginia Tech.

“People are tired of being stressed and poor,” said David Kittrell, a glass gallery owner from Dallas visiting the Crescent City for its New Year’s celebrations with his wife, Barbara. The couple has endured a rough few years, as the recession cut into their sales. But they said business had been getting better.

Amber Nimocks, 40, of Raleigh, N.C., says she’ll be glad to see the end of 2011 for a host of reasons, including that she recently learned her temporary job at a public radio station would not become permanent.

The deadly tornadoes that struck North Carolina in April went through her backyard the same week that her 4-year-old son, Sam, was hospitalized because he had pneumonia. A few days, she and her husband learned a friend had died in Libya.

“I felt like I was gasping for air all year,” said Nimocks.

Still, she saw hope in the revolutions in the Middle East and the Occupy movement in the United States. Her hope for her own 2012 is to spend more time with the people important to her, including family members and friends, the people who “shine in the midst of all the chaos.”

Several people preparing to celebrate the holiday told the AP that they would usher in the New Year hoping the U.S. Congress would become a more cooperative place. Some talked about their hopes for the presidential election. Others said they hoped to hold on to their job, or find a new one to replace one they’d lost.

An Associated Press-GfK poll conducted Dec. 8-12 found that 62 percent of Americans are optimistic that the nation’s fortunes would improve in 2012, and 78 percent hopeful that their own family would have a better year. Most wrote off 2011 as a dud.

Gina Aragones, of suburban Chicago, says she has a simple reason for being optimistic about 2012: It can’t be any worse. In 2011, complications from gallbladder surgery kept her from working. That led to her being laid off from her job as a clerk. The cascade chased her from her Chicago home to less expensive accommodations more than an hour northwest of the city.

“I’m excited to do away with 2011, I’ll tell you that,” Aragones said as she readied to spend New Year's Eve at home with her husband and two children, ages 13 and 9, dining on a seafood feast.

“I could cry every day,” she said. “But I don’t think that’s going to help my children, help the mood in the home every day. I try to stay positive.”

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Associated Press writers Chris Hawley in New York, Michael Kunzelman in New Orleans, Nomaan Merchant in Chicago and Martha Waggoner in Raleigh, N.C., contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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