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Arkansas families reunite for Christmas holiday amid pandemic

AAA predicts more than 109 millions Americans will travel by plane or car between Thursday, December 23 and January 2, 2022.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — When you think back to Christmas last year, things were a lot different.

Vaccines were a very new thing, there were still so many unanswered questions about COVID-19 and people were hesitant about traveling.

As we've seen in recent months, that's not the case.

With Thursday, December 23 being one of the busiest travel days of the year, the highways and airport can be a mess.

For some families during this pandemic, they are just happy to be able to reunite with their loved ones once again.

"We haven't seen him since he got out of basic and we didn't think he was going to come home for Christmas," said Cassandra Rose.

For her and her family, just being together is the best gift of them all.

They waited outside of the TSA checkpoint for her brother, Joseph Rose.

"One of the most important things in the world to me is being able to see the people I care about and be there with them," Joseph Rose said.

He said hanging with his loved ones is a holiday tradition.

"It's absolutely wonderful. I definitely miss being here," Joseph said.

He's spent the last six months away from home and the journey to getting back home for the holidays was unsure.

"He's like, I'm not sure if I'm gonna be able to come home," said Savannah Rose. "I looked at my mom and we are both just in tears because the only thing we wanted was to see him."

The family reunited Thursday morning at the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

Some people may call that Christmas magic.

Just a few feet away, another family reunion.

This one was more than a year in the making.

The family said the pandemic forced them to stay apart last year.

"Everyone canceled on me because COVID is so bad," one woman said.

With the omicron variant now spreading rapidly, she admits she is a bit fearful for the future.

"It's just been trying times. Yesterday, my daughter was going all over the city trying to get COVID tested and it's just been stressful," one woman said.

Despite her fears, she said she is just grateful her children and seven of her grandchildren are together again this year.

"I've been cooking and preparing my house. Being all ready so you know, we're gonna have a good time now," one woman said.

Perhaps one lesson that the pandemic taught everyone is being thankful for the time spent with family, because even that can change in an instant.

"I hope that no one has to go without their family and for those that do, I send my prayers out to them. Hope that they're doing all right in the sun," Joseph Rose said.