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A day of observation and open doors

Geraldine Haldner

Free hot dogs and burgers and heart-felt handshakes and back-slaps dominated the scene in front of Vail’s main fire station.

Officials at both places – one of worship the other of public safety – knew people would come. So they they opened their doors and extended their hands.

“Our door is always open,” said Vail Fire Chief John Gulick. “But we knew that today, more than any other day, people would want to stop by and say “Hi.'”

“I prepared for a special service with a great heaviness of the heart,” said Father Brooks Keith of the valley’s Episcopalian Church in the closing sermon of an hour-long lunch service that included prayers and reflections by clergy from the Jewish, Catholic and Lutheran faiths.

Looking out over the packed pews of the church, Keith said he remembered exactly how he felt that day – helpless.

“It was one of those moments when there is literally nothing to say,” he told the congregation of the moment when a New Jersey man, on vacation in Vail, sought Keith’s help because his son was missing in New York City.

“Having a collar or not makes no difference in a time like that,” Keith said, adding that the only answer he had was to lead the man in a “terribly partial, selfish prayer” for the safety of the missing chef working in one of the towers at the World Trade Center.

The New Jersey guest later reported back to Keith that his son had escaped.

“That was the only good news we received that day,” Keith said.

Catholic Priest Father Frank Maroney led the congregation in prayer, asking for “the strength to answer questions, to listen, to be present for each other.”

“We are a people with a scar, but a people with a scar that have become healers,” Maroney said.

Myrna Sigman, representing the Jewish Faith, told the congregation she had “been angry for most of the year.”

A born New Yorker, she said she just recently allowed herself to think of happy memories related to the towers of the World Trade Center – anniversary celebrations, family outings to the towers’ observation deck to “see the lady.”

Back at the fire station, burgers and hot dogs sizzled on the grill and firefighters welcomed a steady stream of well-wishers, showing them around the station and serving them a free lunch.

“It was a good day for us to come and thank these guys,” said Carol Matthews, an Eagle-Vail resident. “And we got a free lunch too.”

Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 602, or at ghaldner@vaildaily.com.


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