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Attacks still sting

Matt Zalaznick

Hundreds from the Vail Valley gathered in an early, autumnal chill at the Ford Amphitheater Wednesday morning to remember the roughly 3,000 victims who perished on Sept. 11 and reaffirm the freedom the terrorist attacks did not destroy.

“I look at everybody we lost there as an American. That’s what tugs at my heart. It doesn’t matter if you were a police officer, a firefighter, a member of the military, a father or mother – you were an American,”

said Chief Charlie Moore of the Eagle River Fire District.

Though the flames are out and the dust has long settled, the emotions stirred by that tragic day are still strong and may never subside, said Vail resident Julie Brown.

“I’m going home to New York in two weeks, and I’m looking forward to it more than ever,” Brown said. “My friends and my family have become much more important to me.”

“Sept. 11 put our priorities in check,” said Brown’s friend Julie Urquhart.

In a tribute similar to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C., panels listing the names of the victims of Sept. 11 were set up along the entrance to the amphitheater. During the ceremony, 11 Eagle County residents told the stories of 11 victims who died Sept. 11 in the World Trade Center, in the Pentagon and on the four doomed airliners.

“The lives the victims lead may have been overshadowed by their deaths,” said Lt. Joel Best of the Colorado Army National Guard. “But we can focus on a few as representatives to the victims to ponder the senseless tragedy of it all.”

United Airlines Flight Attendant Susan Armitage recalled the words of family members who told the story of flight attendant Wanda Green. They said Green was a hard-working mother of two who was on the plane that crashed in rural Pennsylvania before the hijackers could hit their target, Armitage said.

“Her goal was to give her kids the best life possible,” Armitage was told by Green’s sister and her best friend. “She didn’t always have a lot, but she made sure Joe (her son) had a graduation party and Jennifer (her daughter) had a 21st birthday.”

When her children were young, Green included pairs of pajamas in their Christmas presents every year, family members said.

“It made the children shriek with laughter or roll their eyes,” Armitage said.

Green, who’d earned her Realtor’s license, was preparing to open her own real estate company when she died, family members said.

“Her mother spoke to her the night before the doomed flight and she said, “I love you and I’ll see you tomorrow,'” Armitage said.

Brian McDonnell, who had two children, was a New York City police officer who worked for the elite emergency services unit. He was last seen rushing into the south tower of the World Trade Center, Eagle County Commissioner Michael Gallagher said.

“When people get in trouble they call the police; when the police get in trouble they call the emergency services, they call Brian,” he said, adding that McDonell’s wife tried to make Christmas as normal as possible.

“The front lawn was decorated with lights, and they had a tree decorated red, white and blue and his police cap on top of the tree,” Gallagher said. “Brian was never decorated because he never wrote himself up for commendation.”

The youngest victim of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was Christine Lee Hanson, 2, who died with her parents on one of the planes that slammed into the World Trade Center.

“Christine was love personified,” said Leticia Harrison, an outreach coordinator at Edwards Elementary School. “The world would’ve had no limits for her.”

At the last family gathering, in August, Christine brought a bag of lollipops and handed them out to all her cousins, Harrison said.

“Christine, you were too young to leave us,” she said.

Vail residents Jude and Hayley Pollock, who are from Australia, said they came to the memorial with their 22-month-old son, Noah, to remember the overwhelming day and support Americans.

“We were watching the whole thing from Australia and we felt empathy for Americans,” Jude Pollock said. “Australia was a long, long way away but the whole world stopped that day. It was amazing, devastating. There are so many words to describe it, but they’re hard to find.”

Jude, who has lived in America before, said the country seems prouder since he’s been back.

“America’s always been a patriotic country, but it’s a lot more evident,” he said. “There’s a lot of pride.”

Jennie Hursey, an Eagle County employee, said she came to the ceremony to support a friend who is a paramedic who went to Ground Zero the day after Sept. 11 and another friend who helped map the disaster site.

“I definitely should be here, even though they’re in other states, to support what they’re doing,” Hursey said.

Other victims remembered Wednesday included: Joseph Agnello, a New York City firefighter and avid skier; Kit Faragher, a computer programmer from Denver; Rodney Dickinson, an 11-year-old elementary school student; Hilda Marcin, a spry 79-year-woman whose family escaped Nazi Germany; Nehamon Lyons, a Navy sailor who died at the Pentagon; James Gartenberg, a commercial real estate director; Shuyin Yang, a pediatrician from China; and John Kastimatides, a financial trader.

George Roussos, assistant county administrator, said Kastimatides –who was known by the nicknames “Johnny Bodacious” and “Johnny Cash” – was remembered for living his life in technicolor. His jeep and jet ski were bright yellow, he had a baby blue Harley Davidson and he wore bright pink underwear to Super Bowl parties, Roussos said.

“He would do back flips off window sills to impress girls,” he said. “He would do Greek dances on tables and fall off and break his wrist.”

Leslie Kehmeier, a geographic information systems analyst for Eagle County, said friends remembered Faragher for her exuberance.

“Kit had a love for life,” Kehmeier said. “She could turn any situation into a good time.”

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.


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