Mountains grapple with 9/11 legacy
Steamboat SpringsKevin Nerney, 45, moved to Steamboat Springs after retiring from the Fire Department of New York on Aug. 24, 2001. Eighteen days later, 343 of his colleagues were killed while trying to save people from the burning World Trade Center towers.He knew more than 50 of the fallen firefighters personally. All of the firefighters in his company were killed, except for one who drove and manned the fire truck.Though Nerney was retired, he was working that day, building his home in the Silver Spur subdivision. His wife called him and said she had heard a plane hit the World Trade Center. He thought it was a two-seater -no big deal.He didn’t find out what had really happened until about 4 p.m. that day. He spent the rest of the afternoon trying to call friends back home, wondering if they were safe.Nerney would have worked on Sept. 11, 2001, if he were still on the force. He felt fortunate to be safe. A friend mentioned maybe he should have been there, so he could have helped people, but Nerney said, “There’s no way I’m going to live the rest of my life with that guilt – no way.”Nerney had no intention of letting guilt get a hold of him. As soon as New York airports reopened, he took the first flight. Nerney spent the next 10 days sifting through the rubble at Ground Zero. It was all too reminiscent of the first World Trade Center bombing eight years before, when Nerney sifted through those ashes, pulling out bodies dead and alive.”It was a typical nightmare,” Nerney said of the 1993 bombing. “People were running and screaming. It was just a nightmare.”By the time Nerney was back on the job in New York in September 2001, most of the screaming had subsided. Other firefighters asked, “What are you doing here?””What do you think I?m doing here?” Nerney responded.For the next couple of months, Nerney coughed up mucus blackened by the ash, smoke and debris from the site.Now. two years later, Nerney looks back at the terrorist attacks and the loss of his friends. His perception has not changed.”I think about those guys every day of the year, not just on theanniversary,” Nerney said. “The service those guys gave renews your faith in mankind, despite what (the terrorists) did.”Nerney gave several memorial speeches in Steamboat last year, but is notscheduled for any appearances this year. He said it is not because peoplehave forgotten, but because it is time to move on.-Nick Foster Steamboat Springs Pilot & Today StaffGlenwood SpringsAlthough a newspaper advertisement announcing a Sept. 11 memorial service Thursday tonight seemed to some to carry an inappropriate political message, event speakers focused on honoring those who died two years ago in the terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania.Carbondale Mayor Michael Hassig and Lauren Martin, pastor at the Glenwood Mennonite Church, were be two of five community and spiritual leaders who spoke Thursday night honoring the victims of Sept. 11 at Sopris Park in Carbondale.”I’m still grappling with the extraordinary tragedy of Sept. 11,” said Hassig on Wednesday afternoon. “I was asked to speak, not to endorse or render an opinion. I’ll likely focus on the sacrifices and the losses of 9-11 and then address the question of how we, as the living, are to carry on. That’s the challenge at services of remembrances.”For Hassig and Martin, the gathering was for remembering those who lost their lives two years ago, even though a full-page newspaper advertisement placed by event organizers last week generated some criticism for linking the national tragedy to a political agenda.The advertisement, which listed nearly 70 names of people who paid for the ad, stated that those who died at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight 93 over Pennsylvania were not the only victims of Sept. 11.Also listed were the numbers of U.S. and coalition soldiers killed in Afghanistan (74), Iraqi soldiers (30,000) and Iraqi civilians (37,137) killed in the Iraq war, in addition to the “United States Constitution,” the “budget deficit” and “the truth.”Event organizer Calvin Lee of Carbondale stands by the advertisement. Lee is part of the Roaring Fork Peace Coalition, a group formed in 2002 by locals in response to the current administration’s war on terrorism.”The ad was meant to be hard-hitting and informative,” Lee said. “We want to impress upon people that victims are increasing on a daily basis.”This is the second year the group has organized a ceremony on Sept. 11.”Last year was the first anniversary of 9-11,” he said. “We had a ceremony on that date to remember and honor victims. Now two years have gone by. We’ve changed the theme of the ceremony to honor all the victims of war. In two years, there’s been a huge amount of death – both American and Iraqi soldiers. It seemed fitting to have a ceremony for all the dead.”Still, Mayor Hassig isn’t sure where the line is drawn between honoring and remembering – and capitalizing on tragedy.”I don’t want to lose sight of the real meaning behind the day,” Hassig said, who, along with Martin, never saw the ad before it was printed in the newspaper.Pastor Martin concentrated on a message of peace during the ceremony.”Calvin asked me to lead a prayer and I said “yes,'” Martin said. “Some people from my own church questioned the Bush-bashing nature of the ad, and that the ceremony seemed like an angry event put on by angry people. I need to practice my own peace-making practices.”I’m saying a prayer for peace, not a curse on Bush or Condeleeza or anyone else. Peace begins with each one of us. As the prayer of St. Francis goes, where there is conflict, let there be peace. I don’t have to strike out,” Martin said.-Carrie Click/ Glenwood Springs Post Independent StaffAspenThe second anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 will was marked with community reflection and quiet memorial services in the Roaring Fork Valley.The Aspen Volunteer Fire Department will opened Thursday’s remembrance at 7:50 a.m., when members of the department and public gathered at fire headquarters, 420 E. Hopkins. At 7:58 a.m., the fire department will rang its historic bell in a way traditionally used to signal a death during service.Hundreds of New York City firefighters died when the World Trade Center towers collapsed. The ceremony will concluded with remarks by Chief Darryl Grob and a moment of silence for the victims.Firefighters are one part of the “first responder” team that rushes to emergency scenes. This team – which typically consists of firefighters, police, ambulance technicians and other aid workers – was hardest hit during the terrorist attacks, especially during the collapse of the towers.”First responders” were also be honored at a memorial service at noon Thursday at The Given Institute, 100 E. Francis. The Institute honored those who lost their lives on Sept. 11 as well as local emergency workers during a luncheon.-Jennifer Davoren/Aspen Times Staff Writer
Support Local Journalism
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User