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Woman remembers growing up with the Rockefeller Christmas tree

As millions of people watched NBC's "Christmas in Rockefeller Center" on Wednesday, Kristina Whitaker gathered her friends and family prepared for a special evening. (WJAC)

STATE COLLEGE -- As millions of people watched NBC's "Christmas in Rockefeller Center" Wednesday, Kristina Whitaker gathered her friends and family prepared for a special evening.

Like many others in State College, Whitaker was excited to know that the tree was from State College.

"I was just so excited to be a part of something bigger," Whitaker said. "Everyone was happy to see State College be put on the map in a positive way."

Whitaker lost her father the day after finding out the tree was from her old neighborhood, but it was on the day of his funeral when she put together a shocking connection.

"Somebody posted a Google map of where the tree was located, and when I looked closely I realized - the tree was in my grandparents' backyard!" Whitaker said.

Whitaker never got to tell her father the news.

"It was so frustrating to not be able to talk to him about it and share my excitement," she said.

She and her sister Lisa Stickland took their kids for one last visit. It was a bittersweet moment for the sisters to see a big part of their childhood be taken away. Whitaker said that as children they used to play on the tree, which was right outside their father's childhood bedroom window.

"It was surreal," Strickland said. "But I know my father would have been proud, and (he) would have wanted to see it in New York."

Whitaker and Strickland said after watching their cherished childhood tree being lit up on live television, they will also take their families to see it one last time in New York City.

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