The remains of several victims had been discovered in the rubble during the night as crews picked through what had been underground levels of the trade center. Those working at the site had volunteered to work on Christmas.
"People are saying 'Merry Christmas' and stuff, but it doesn't feel like Christmas out there," said Patrick Shea, an emergency service police officer, as he finished work for the day. "We'd like to recover people today. In a weird way, it would be like a gift for somebody."
Christmas Day marked 15 weeks since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when two hijacked airliners crashed into the twin towers, which collapsed and left nearly 3,000 people dead or missing.
Some workers said that although their families missed them on Christmas, it was nothing compared to what victims' relatives were enduring.
"There's still a lot of people we have to look for," said Sgt. John Cafarella, who missed Christmas morning with his three children to start work at 6 a.m.
Inside a large tent where recovery workers take breaks, Salvation Army volunteers served a Christmas dinner of prime rib, turkey with apple gravy, glazed ham, twice-baked potatoes, green beans with almonds, and yams.
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani donned a red Salvation Army smock to help serve food and greet workers at the site, while a quartet played Christmas carols and patriotic tunes.
Giuliani later filled a plate with prime rib and green beans and sat to eat with five firefighters.
"To be able to do such dangerous work for such a long time really indicates how brave and strong they are," Giuliani said of the workers at the site.
Several workers said Giuliani's visit boosted their mood.
"It's different today, people are in better spirits," said firefighter Tom Sweetman. "Most times people walk around with their heads down, but today there's a little hope."
Among the spectators gathered along the perimeter of the site, Veronique Fellous said she had come from Paris to celebrate the holidays in New York.
"I wanted to be here with a lot of people to feel part of the community," Fellous said.
Miriam Neeson of Atlanta spoke through tears. She said being near the site was "a form of sharing. This is the only way we can give support."
"Right now, I'm feeling a little guilty for having things and being able to be here, because there are a lot of families who don't have that," she said.
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