- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 25, 2003

Pat Penn stood outside the White House yesterday and absorbed the sight for the first time in person, one of hundreds of tourists who visited the first family’s home on Christmas despite the nation’s heightened terror alert.

“Are there always so many police officers around?” the 59-year-old Arkansas native asked. “There seem to be an awful lot of police cars downtown. There’s a lot of security.”

Though museums, government offices and most tourist attractions were closed yesterday, plenty of people were downtown just five days after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security raised the nation’s terror alter to code orange, or a “high risk” level.

Reports from travel officials confirmed that Americans were indeed on the move.

“The ‘Code Orange’ alert doesn’t seem to be deterring travelers,” Deborah DeYoung, a spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said Tuesday. “Weather usually plays more havoc than anything else with vacation plans.”

Officials at Baltimore-Washington International Airport said neither the weather nor tightened security slowed holiday travelers.

They reported that more than 70,000 persons flew in and out of the airport on Christmas Eve, not as many the day before Thanksgiving but more than enough to pack the terminals.

Airport officials reported no major delays or fallout from Air France’s canceling six flights between Paris and Los Angeles because of terrorist concerns.

However, travelers faced tighter security, with some being stopped in their cars as they approached the airport.

Yesterday’s clear, sunny weather brought Robert Small and his wife, Ruth, both 74, from Annapolis to the National Christmas Tree across from the White House.

“We just figured we’d go out and do something,” Mr. Small said. “This weather is remarkable. I’m glad we don’t have any of the white stuff.”

Said Mrs. Small: “We try to go out and do something different every year. A few years ago, we went to Austria. This year we stuck a little closer to home.”

Others traveled much further to spend Christmas taking photos of the major attractions in the District, even if many places were closed.

“I never considered not making the trip,” said Linda Bader, 56, who traveled from Jacksonville, Fla., to visit her son-in-law in Arlington.

“I feel totally safe,” she said while snapping photos. “It’s a beautiful day, and we didn’t get any snow, which makes me very glad.”

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said Christmas tourism in the District is beginning to rebound after a slump caused by the Sept. 11 attacks.

“We are pleased that security has not entirely trumped the Christmas season,” she said. “We are winning the battle to keep the District open, especially at Christmas. We are trying to make Christmas a new tourist season for visitors to the city.”

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide