20 years later: Local community members recall events of 9/11 attacks on somber anniversary
Some people were just getting out of bed, others were getting ready for work while a few were on their way to school to drop off their children.
No matter were they were, or what they were doing on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, they all remember the details of that day.
Here are just a few.
Cameron Saheb, owner of Advance Autoglass & Tinting
“My dad didn’t take me to school that day,” said Cameron Saheb, who was 7 years old and living in Highlands Ranch at the time. “I was in elementary school and I was waiting for him to take me, but he never came back out. When he did come out, he said you’re not going to school, something has happened.”
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Saheb said his dad tried to explain what he knew at the time, but admits that he really did not understand what had happened that day.
“I think it put fear in a lot of people’s eyes,” Saheb said. “I think we thought the U.S. was a powerhouse, and until then we were untouchable.”
Saheb said life changed for his parents in the days that followed, but because he was so young he didn’t really notice then. He thinks those events inspired a renewed sense of patriotism and was a reason many of his friends joined the military.
“I think that’s why most people are serving nowadays,” Saheb said. “Half my buddies went to serve because they were there for 9/11.”
Angela Cowman, travel agent
Angela Cowman was at home the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when her phone rang.
“I was pregnant with my son, and my husband at the time called and said, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’” Cowman said. “He is like, ‘Turn on the TV and tell me what do you see?’ He was driving to work and was listening to the radio … while I was on the phone with him, I watched the second plane fly into the World Trade Center.”
Like many people across the world, Cowman said she didn’t fully understand what was happening at those horrifying hours.
She was living in California and feared for her sister-in-law who was working at a World Trade Center office in San Diego, California, at the time.
“We did not know if they were aiming for all of them, or what they would do next,” Cowman said. “We were scared for her.”
The events of that day still traumatize her.
“It just felt like the world stopped for a minute, just like that Alan Jackson song (‘Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning’),” Cowman said. “I felt like everybody slowed down and took a minute to think about how vulnerable we all are.”
It was a challenge to translate the events of that day, the emotions she and others felt and how it impacted the country.
PJ Wharton, Yampa Valley Bank president
Yampa Valley Bank President PJ Wharton was living in Gunnison on Sept. 11, 2001, when he heard the news.
“We were on Ohio Pass, and it was a glorious day,” Wharton said. “The leaves were starting to change, and I remember this beautiful red barn. I was listening to National Public Radio, and they made the announcement that the Pentagon had been hit, and one of the towers have been hit.”
Wharton said he was in shock and disbelief after the second plane flew into the World Trade Center. He struggled to come to grips with what was happening.
“I remember talking to my wife, who was watching on TV, which was much more traumatic to see what was happening,” Wharton said. “It was life changing, and you remember exactly where you were when it was happening.”
Twenty years later, Wharton says paying respect to those that died on 9/11, and remembering how everyone felt in that moment, is very important to him. That’s way he supports the 9/11 Never Forget Project. Each year high school students plant 2,997 flags in the lawn in front of Yampa Valley Bank along U.S. Highway 40 for those who died in the terrorist attacks, and another 3,500 for those that have died from illness after working at Ground Zero.
“I’m so proud of these high school students, who were not alive and didn’t witness it or experience it,” Wharton said. “It’s something that’s in the history books, so the fact that they’re doing it, they’re leading it and they are here putting the flags in is also a very important part.”
Wharton said the response from the community is meaningful, whether people honk before the flags as they drive by or pay tribute as they walk by or help place flags with the students.
“I think it’s really significant that we do take some time, whether it’s a song or prayer or just an acknowledgment of the people … that’s really affirming,” he said.
Alley Kvols, Steamboat Springs High School student
Alley Kvols has no memories of the events of 9/11. She did not listen to that day unfold on the radio, she did not watch the horrific images on her family’s TV. She wasn’t born until five years later.
Kvols, a freshman at Steamboat Springs High School, said she learned about 9/11 in school. This year she decided to take on the 9/11 Never Forget Project with the idea of carrying on a tradition that brings attention to that infamous day’s events.
“I think this is a great tribute to do, and it’s something that everybody should know about,” Kvols said. “This actually happened.”
Her hope is that more people will come out and help plant flags, and continue to share remembrances of 9/11 with the next generation.
Ray Heid, Del’s Triangle 3 Ranch
Longtime Steamboat Springs local Ray Heid says he was too young to remember Pearl Harbor, but said he will never forget where he was and what he was doing on 9/11.
“My wife, and I were going to go down to New Mexico and camp for a few weeks but I suggested that we just sneak up to Steamboat Lake and everybody would think that we are gone,” Heid said. Someone at the camp next to the Heids approached them to say what happened on the East Coast.
Heid had already noticed there were no planes passing overhead and that things seemed quiet.
“I remember when (World War II) ended. I was standing on the corner up here at Lyon’s Drug and all the big semi trucks started coming by blowing their horns,” Heid said. “In my mind 9/11 made a heck of a lot more of an impression.”
Heid agrees that the world, and the American attitude changed that day. He said there was more fear, and a new sense of awareness everywhere.
Captain Michael Arce, Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue
As a firefighter and first responder, Michael Arce has a special connection to the events that unfolded on 9/11.
“I was still a volunteer at that point,” said Arce, who is now a captain. “I was getting out of bed, and I flipped on the TV, and I think it was ‘Good Morning America.’ The first thing I saw was one of the towers on fire and then I heard a plane crashed into it — I was thinking a small plane crashed into the World Trade Center, and that’s awful. Then I got to see the second one coming in.”
He thought of the firefighters that would have to climb over 100 flights of stairs, wearing full gear. A total of 343 firefighters would die trying to reach the fires and save people.
“We’re far removed from New York City, but that did not make it any less impactful on us — the fire service is a brotherhood,” Arce said. “All firefighters felt it.”
Arce said there was a lot more gratitude for his profession in the days that followed.
For the past several years, members of Steamboat Fire Rescue honor their fallen brothers with 9/11 Safety and Survival Day, which includes special training and a memorial stair climb at Sheraton Steamboat Resort.
He says he will never lose sight of how that day changed everything.
“It changed my life the way it changed every other person that lives in the U.S.,” Arce said. “It had a huge impact, and it’s a different world that we live in now. There are different things that we need to worry about. Things that we really did not have to worry about in the past.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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