By Michael Donahue
Recent acts of terrorism and ISIS threats on New York City did not seem to damper the spirit of the crowd gathered for the 83rd lighting of the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Plaza, but, they did cause some New Yorkers to avoid the event.
The crowd, a mix of New Yorkers and visitors from out of state and even the country, gathered around the 78-foot Norway spruce December 2. The 10-ton tree was chopped down in upstate New York and transported to the plaza where it will be lit daily until January 7.
A tree has been lit at the Rockefeller Center since December 1931, when demolition workers working by the site put their money together and got a tree. Since then it has been a staple in New York holiday spirit. Now up to half a million people pass by the tree a day, making it an epicenter for holiday celebration.
Despite the threats by ISIS about attacks on New York City, attendees like Henry Roman, 24, said they did not intend to change their plans. “We cannot let these cowards disturb our way of life,” said Roman. “We should continue living our lives while going out to do what we want to do.” Roman insisted that he would not live in a constant state of worry. “What they want is for us to stay inside our houses wondering when they’re going to do something, but we cannot let them get the satisfaction.”
To try and put city dwellers at ease, the city has heightened its security and has put more police on the streets. Neverthless, there were some who still felt intimidated by the threat. “It doesn’t really make me feel safer,” said Crissy Campbell, 21, of the increased police presence. “I mean, sure it’s nice to see but you can’t spot a terrorist from a hole in the wall. I usually go every year to see the tree lighting but this year feels different. I’ll probably go after its been lit for a week or two and check it out then,” said Campbell.
The Christmas season is usually a time for joy and jolly moods, but will this season be one for panic? Carl Callahan, 34, said he usually passes the tree every day on his way to work but not this year. “I’ll just walk an extra block or two and avoid it all together,” he said. “Besides it’s a big tree, you can see it from a distance. I don’t know what good a block may do me if something actually does happen but it makes me feel a bit safer everyday not walking by it. It attracts so many people, you never know who can have the ill intentions.”
Paul Lynch, 43, brought his family to see the Christmas offerings, including the tree. “Me and my family come every year to the city and just take in all the holiday attractions,” said Lynch. “My kids love the tree so rather than to scare them with thoughts, we rather treat it like any holiday.”