- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 26, 2001

It was a bittersweet Christmas for many still coming to terms with the September 11 terrorist attacks as thousands mourned loved ones and more packed churches looking for answers.
"With the holidays, it's really hard," said Kellie Lee, whose husband, Dan, was killed when American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the World Trade Center's north tower. "I know now he is not coming home and there is no one there for me."
Dan Lee, a carpenter for the Backstreet Boys' concert tour who spent much of the year on the road, was on his way back to be with Mrs. Lee when she gave birth.
The mother, who now lives in Erie, Pa., says she's trying to make the holidays a time of joy for Amanda, 3, and 3-month-old Allison, but struggles daily.
"I wake up and my heart hurts, but then I get one of Allison's quirky looks and I'll laugh," Mrs. Lee said.
At the World Trade Center site, crowds of onlookers gathered in freezing temperatures as volunteers continued their efforts to find the remains of victims.
"I wanted to be here today. It's difficult to explain," said Detective Cmdr. Yalkin Demirkaya of the New York police, as he struggled to keep his composure. Cmdr. Demirkaya said he had celebrated an early Christmas with his family so that he could work yesterday.
Some National Guardsmen spent Christmas patrolling the nation's airports, bridges and other potential terrorist targets.
"I feel like we have a purpose here," said Spc. Courtney Risser, who left his job as a dispatcher with the Ringgold County Sheriff's Department to serve in the Iowa Army National Guard.
Still, the New York National Guard made an effort to give members with young children Christmas Day off, and was able to succeed in about half of the cases, said Scott Sandman, spokesman for the state Division of Military and Naval Affairs. Many others live close enough to their assignments they could be home for part of the day, he said.
Spc. Anthony Yonnoni had been on the job almost constantly since September 11, and expected to work Christmas rather than spend it with his wife, Arlene, and children Anthony, 10; Angelo, 7; and Ashley, 5.
"The kids were overwhelmed," said Spc. Yonnoni, of New Windsor, N.Y.
The attacks also played a prominent role in sermons as people crowded churches.
"I encourage you this Christmas to keep the victims in mind, and remember prayerfully their families," the Rev. Nathan Baxter told a crowded Christmas morning service at Washington National Cathedral.
The 2,200-member St. Paul Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, added a Christmas Eve service because of a growing number of parishioners.
"We've been seeing more people, and more people we don't know, through the fall," said the Rev. Nicholson B. White. "I think it's people who are appropriately looking to their faith communities where they can make some meaning out of that which otherwise is meaningless."
Meals for the homeless and those benefiting charities were well-attended.
In Atlanta, about 22,000 people lined up at Turner Field for a seven-course, all-you-can-eat holiday feast, Georgia's largest charitable holiday dinner.
"Atlanta has been hit very hard in the hospitality industry and air-travel industry," said Lisa Brown, spokeswoman for Hosea's Feed the Hungry and Homeless Christmas Dinner. "Some of the people who donated last year are in line now."
Only a few parts of the country, however, were able to enjoy a white Christmas as one of the mildest winters on record continued.
Snow fell yesterday mostly around the Great Lakes, including western New York, Michigan, Ohio and western Pennsylvania. Parts of northwestern Michigan got 8 to 12 inches, the National Weather Service said. A layer of flakes also coated the ground across sections of the upper Midwest.
But the heaviest snow fell around Buffalo, N.Y., with 25.2 inches of snow having fallen at Buffalo-Niagara International Airport by midday yesterday the city's third-heaviest recorded 24-hour snowfall.
"I'd love a white Christmas if it'd stop right now," said Bernie Dolan, wiping the snow off his car after Christmas Eve Mass. "That's a little too white."
Despite Buffalo's reputation for heavy snow, it was a last-minute white Christmas for the city. It had a snow-free November for the first time on record and collected only 1.6 inches of snow in the first 23 days of December, compared with 80 inches during November and December of last year.
As Don McMahon left Christ the King Church in suburban Amherst, he said, "We've had a nice fall, but now we're going to have to pay for it."

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