Area residents gather to pray, reflect
Event honors local law enforcement, emergency workers
Steamboat Springs — Even with a white cloud of moisture covering the Steamboat ski area to the east, promising a cold rain or snow any minute, about 150 residents and emergency service groups dressed in stocking hats and coats gathered at the Routt County Courthouse Thursday to recognize the one-month anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and to honor local fire, law and emergency response workers.
The event was organized by the Yampa Valley Community Foundation and included the singing of patriotic songs, Hebrew and Christian prayers and a candle-lighting ceremony. The Community Foundation also organized a fund-raiser for victims of the Sept. 11 tragedy and to create a fund for victims of tragedies that happen locally.
The Steamboat Springs High School Band kicked off the hour-long ceremony with a rendition of “American Celebration,” followed by the “Pledge of Allegiance,” led by the Boy Scouts and a color guard. Then the crowd sang “The Star-spangled Banner” together, led by Audrey Billiot.
“We are here tonight to offer our prayers and thoughts to the victims of Sept. 11,” program emcee Dean Vogelaar said to the crowd. “We also are here to recognize what we have.”
In attendance were representatives from fire, law and emergency medical services from agencies throughout the county, from Yampa to Hayden.
Vogelaar said it is important for the community to recognize the people who lay their lives on the line to ensure security and peace locally.
“We want you to know how much we appreciate your dedication,” Vogelaar said.
Billiot then led residents in “God Bless America.”
Tom Gengel, of Steamboat Mental Health, also addressed the gathering on how to deal with the stress from the terrorist attacks and the ensuing war on terrorism waged by the United States.
“It’s OK to feel sad,” Gengel said.
However, he added that it also is OK to let emotions go and find things to laugh about. Gengel encouraged people to talk about fears and to take action, such as donating.
After singing “This Land is Your Land,” members in the gathering lit candles passed out to them and observed the color guard give a 21-gun salute.
“I thought it was very impressive and very respectful,” Vogelaar said after the event.
Residents in and around Steamboat Springs have the luxury of being isolated from the stresses happening in other parts of the country related to the attacks, Vogelaar said.
The month anniversary ceremony was a way for people to remember and come together as a community.
“It was one of the most heart-felt, touching events I’ve been to in my life,” Routt County Sheriff John Warner said.
The weather also seemed respectful of the event with the rain begining to fall only after the crowd had dispersed.
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