Holidays have new meaning
Whether it's closer family ties or increased charity or economic fears, most people interviewed Christmas eve feel the season has a new meaning due to the terrorists attacks on America.
"There's a lot more giving now ... since the tragedies," said Shawn Lincoln, who was pleased with new clothes and a backpack he received from the Salvation Army and New Hope Church.
Homeless for seven years, Lincoln said he volunteers to repay the help he has received like the shelter he expects to have starting next month.
"I used to no go to church, now I go once a day," he said. "I tell you the truth, I'm about to cry."
This is the first year Roberta Makaokalani said she will spend Christmas was her just husband and the couple's three children.
"It's more meaningful this year," Makaokalani said Monday at her booth at Hilo Farmers Market.
Makaokalani said she lost a son last Christmas, which made celebrating the holiday impossible. However, she has since become rejuvenated.
"This year I'm so happy," she said. "I decorated my whole house with lights."
Delivering mail Monday was postal worker Leonard Sagon, who said the volume was far less than usual.
"For one thing, it's affected the economy a lot," he said of the 911 attack. "It's affected my family. I think it's affected everyone in Hilo."
Sagon said he typically spends the holiday season attending parties, but he and his family will now go to church.
"This year we're making the time," he added.
Also working on Christmas Eve was security guard Robert Pickens, who said he plans to eat out with his family and relatives visiting from Oahu.
"I think it's made family more closer together because human life is so cheap now," he said.
Having spent Christmas 1968 and 1969 as a U.S. Army solider in Vietnam, Dennis Tam said "everyday is precious to me" because he was lucky enough to return alive.
Tam called the terrorist attacks a "wake - up call, hopefully, for America."
"I want all my family to be close at home," Tam said of his holiday plans. "I really didn't let Sept. 11 screw up my life."
A couple who gave only their first names, Bob and Gerre of Washington state, said they chose to stay with their daughter on the Big Island this Christmas because it is the first time since 1998 that they have spent the holidays here despite having made yearly trips to the Big Island.
"It's always meant a lot to us," Bob said of Christmas.
They noted there is more economic fear in the Seattle area due to mass layoffs at Boeing Co. and Microsoft.
Disappointed at the lack of smiling faces in downtown Hilo on Monday was David Harris, who wore a Santa's hat in hopes of adding some cheer.
"It's been 12 years since I've done that," Harris said of the festive attire.
A member of the Bahai faith, Harris said he does not celebrate Christmas, but rather offers gifts at the Ahyamiha religious holiday held in late February.
"I truly believe the spirit of Christmas and what it means has been lost to commercialism," he said after making a purchase at downtown store.
Meanwhile, under a low December sun and stunning view of snow - capped Mauna Kea, people in Liliuokalani Park felt the 911 impact on Christmas in more muted ways.
Raymond Kunishi has worked 20 years for the county. While sweeping the sidewalks along Lihiwai, Kunishi said 911 has not affected his holiday - unless you count the fact that he couldn't take the 10 a.m. flight he wanted to Vegas last weekend. Canceled. So he and his family had to get up for the 6:30 a.m. flight. Then on the mainland they couldn't drive over Hoover Dam, which was closed for security reasons.
Canadian Barbara Bennett walked briskly by the side of the bay with her sister, Ann Avis, a Hilo resident who's losing her job soon due to cutbacks at Avon.
The attacks are not a big factor in their holiday, either.
"It you lost family or a close friend it would be different," said Bennett. "I'm aware of (9 - 11). And I'm still thinking about all the people who don't have (anything) at Christmas."
Kevin Kozak has not let 9 - 11 affect his holiday. "Not at all - zero," said Kozak, without hesitation. The former Hilo resident lives in San Francisco but regularly returns to the Big Island for the holidays. This year it's a stop on his way to Thailand.
"They do more checking when you travel but it's all good for security," he said. "I know some people don't want to travel because they're afraid.
"But I'm not going to let anybody change my plans," said Kozak. "That's me."
Manuel Sarme, born and raised in Hilo, makes nets and unofficially helps maintain Liliuokalani Park. At Christmas he spends time with his 49 grandchildren. "Christmas been the same," he said. What bugs Sarme are the people who break bottles in the park. Eliminate the broken glass underfoot and the holidays would be all the merrier, he said.
One person who has found a deeper significance in the holiday wears a uniform. Army Staff Sgt. Sigifredo Saldivar sat on a low concrete wall, sipping water in the shade of a tree. The Texas native had been riding his bicycle for miles and took a moment to reflect on the holidays.
"I've been getting more closer to my family," said Saldivar, a 14 - year military veteran, stationed the past 15 months at Pohakuloa Training Area between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Recently, Saldivar has been calling Texas more often to talk, and his relatives have been calling him back, which wasn't always the case, he confided.
Also, the civilian and military personnel on the base have formed a stronger bond since 9 - 11, Saldivar noticed. "We had our Christmas party and a lot of civilians showed up. That's something different this year."
©Copyright 2001, Hawaii Tribune-Herald