- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 26, 2001

Nikki Stern didn't send any Christmas cards this year. She wasn't ready to sign just her own name.
Mrs. Stern, whose husband, James Potorti, died in the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, also won't be visiting her in-laws in North Carolina for the holidays this year. She opted instead to stay with cousins in California.
"If I went down by myself, they'd really notice if he wasn't there," the Plainsboro, N.J., resident said.
Many Americans who did not lose loved ones in the terrorist attacks are turning to the holidays as a welcome distraction from unsettled times. But celebrating is the last thing on the minds of families who are just beginning to grieve.
In Glen Rock, N.J., Courtney Acquaviva has put up a Christmas tree, bought gifts for the whole family and decorated her house for the holidays, all while getting ready to give birth to her second child. Mrs. Acquaviva, 30, lost her husband, Paul, 29, a trader at Cantor Fitzgerald, on September 11.
"It's for the kids," said her mother, Nancy Seitz. "She wants it to be the way Paul would have wanted it."
"This is like yesterday. They're still in shock," said Alan Wolfelt, a psychologist who has written more than 20 books on grief. He said victims' families will have trouble relating to the festive atmosphere around them because their loss is so recent.
"Intellectually, they understand it, but emotionally it just doesn't seem right," said Mr. Wolfelt, who directs the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colo.
Some families have decided to pretend the holidays aren't happening.
"I just can't think about it right now," Rose Zangrilli said through tears. Her 36-year-old son, Mark, was killed in the World Trade Center. The Zangrillis said they may spend the day with their grandchildren, but haven't put up a Christmas tree or had time to think about gifts.
For others, traditions are being modified. Ginny Bauer, 45, of Rumson, N.J., usually cooks a turkey dinner for 25 on Christmas Day. This year, three months after her husband of 21 years, David, was killed, she and her three children went to a cousin's home.
"My kids understand that we are just going to be very quiet this year," she said. "We're basically just doing the bare minimum."
The Bauers wouldn't have had a Christmas tree if a friend didn't deliver and decorate one. Mrs. Bauer told her family that she couldn't shop for gifts. She said she couldn't summon the feelings of good will and thankfulness that usually came to her home around this time.
"It's hard," she said. "You can't pretend to feel a certain way. I don't feel too thankful today."

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