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World Politics Entertainment Gossip Movies TV Music Theater Arts Crosswords Entertainment Pics Horoscopes Daily Weekly Monthly Lifestyle Health Food Viva Games Opinion Autos Buyer’s Guide Ratings Reviews News Views Photos Galleries Covers Classifieds Trending: Stormy Daniels Ruthie Ann Miles RUSSIA GUN CONTROL JARED KUSHNER

Sunday, December 23, 2001, 12:00 AM

Arce was one of 343 members of the Fire Department who perished at the World Trade Center. He also was a secret elf, as his family learned only after Sept. 11, when they found a paper clipped sheaf of letters in his bachelor apartment.

The five letters were from children to Santa. The dates showed there was one for every year Arce had been a firefighter.

The family discovered that in each instance Arce had fulfilled each child’s Christmas wish with a package that arrived as if from the North Pole. This quiet, self effacing firefighter sought neither recognition nor thanks.

“He would just send the package,” his brother, Peter Arce, said last week. They inquired among David Arce’s surviving comrades.

“Everybody was like,
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‘What are you talking about?

‘ ” the brother recalled. “Everybody had no idea. 5 memorial held jointly for him and Michael Boyle, his best friend and fellow member of Engine Co. 33. A standing room only crowd filled St. Patrick’s Cathedral as Peter Arce spoke of the Santa letters in his eulogy. He read aloud the one from 1999:

“Dear Santa’s helpers,

I hope someone receives this letter and finds it in their hearts to find the time to read it. If this letter really falls into the hands of God’s helper, I ask for a computer or anything I can use for school.

Thank you so much for your time,

Peter Arce informed the mourners that Yvonne had indeed received a computer. Smiles broke among the tears, and you could not help but think of David Arce as the sidewalk Santas hit the streets three weeks later. You wondered how his family would get through this Christmas.

The Arce family, being the Arce family, knew just what to do. They began by getting two Santa letters from the main post office on W. 34th St. in Manhattan.

One letter had been written by a girl from East Harlem who seemed to be around 8. We will withhold her name to lessen the chance of ruining the surprise:

“Dear Santa,

I just want to ask you for a Barbie doll, if it is not so much to ask for. I want a Barbie doll because my mother got the rent to pay and some expensive bills.
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