Natural Disasters Lend New Meaning to Day of Thanks
Undated (AP) _ Images of families still struggling after the ravages of the California earthquake and Hurricane Hugo in the Carolinas brought new meaning this year to the day Americans feast and give thanks for the nation’s plenty.
While millions sat down to turkey dinners at home, many others celebrated the holiday by sharing with the less fortunate: the thousands trying to get back on their feet after natural disasters, the homeless in the cities, and the destitute overseas.
In New York City, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade stepped off this morning despite the first significant Thanksgiving snowfall in 51 years and high winds that grounded the Snoopy and Bugs Bunny balloons.
″It’s a white Thanksgiving 3/8″ cheered parade watcher Nora Deledansky, 12.
Around Charleston, S.C., where shattered homes still bear witness to the hurricane that killed 29 people Sept. 21 and 22, volunteers will serve up 5,000 turkey dinners at 13 sites for hurricane victims.
″We got a lot to be thankful for,″ said Charleston City Councilman Robert Ford, who represents many of the city’s poorer areas. ″Everything we lost in Charleston was mostly material anyway. People should be grateful for the fact that they have their lives and health and well-being.″
Besides the dinners sponsored by the Red Cross and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, churches planned to deliver turkeys and hams to hurricane victims.
On the Isle of Palms, where nearly every house was leveled or damaged by Hugo’s 135 mph wind, officials invited about three dozen residents, police officers and firefighters for a Thanksgiving dinner.
In San Francisco, the annual Thanksgiving meal for 6,000 homeless people at Glide Memorial Church took on new significance. The earthquake that killed 67 and did $7 billion in damage Oct. 17 deepened the plight of the homeless by toppling or damaging the cheap hotels where many take shelter.
The Rev. Cecil Williams, pastor of the church in the city’s run-down Tenderloin district, recalled that hundreds volunteered to help the homeless after the quake.
″We have all been through a major earthquake and we have survived. We have much to be thankful for,″ Williams said. ″Most of all, we have a community of people who have been helping each other and we are going to celebrate that spirit of giving and volunteering.″
Across the country, the homeless were invited to Thanksgiving meals at churches and shelters.
Members of Indiana Lions clubs chose Thanksgiving to share America’s plenty with the poor of Guatemala. About 50 Lions set out today in a caravan of 16 used ambulances they will donate to the Central American country, along with 12,000 pairs of used eyeglasses, 15,000 articles of clothing and assorted medical supplies and toys.
At home, families settled down to their turkeys - 45 million birds, according to the National Turkey Federation - and a television diet of parades and football, including two National Football League games.
Snow was falling today in the Northeast, while a storm was developing over the central Gulf Coast states. Snow fell Wednesday in the Great Lakes region and parts of the upper Midwest and the Plains.
The wintry cold and snow weren’t expected to deter huge crowds drawn to New York City’s annual parade, also seen on television by an estimated 55 million people. Macy’s extravaganza of marching bands and helium-filled characters is one of many parades around the country that inaugurate the Christmas shopping season.
President Bush, who used the holiday to rejoice at the changes sweeping Eastern Europe, planned Thanksgiving dinner at Camp David, Md. On the menu: roast turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, green beans, salad and pumpkin and pecan pies.
For long-haul truckers forced to spend the holiday on the highways, truck stops across the country were cooking up home-style meals to serve free. The 39-outlet Truckstops of America chain doesn’t charge for Thanksgiving meals, said Gary Ryan, restaurant manager at the company’s Cleveland headquarters.
In Newark, N.J., hundreds of families offered holiday shelter for 200 people left homeless by fires that destroyed an apartment building and two dozen houses on Tuesday.
All of the homeless have found temporary quarters, either in private homes or in motels arranged by the Red Cross, and they all are invited to Thanksgiving dinner at the Lighthouse Community Center, said Mayor Sharpe James.
In Hammond, Ind., one judge wants to make sure holiday drinking doesn’t add to weather hazards on the road. Municipal Judge Peter Katic ordered bond for those arrested for drunken driving doubled, to $1,500 for state residents and $2,000 for out-of-staters, to ensure drinkers spend the long weekend in jail.