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Events mark 20th anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks

Kendra Sollars and her brother Paxton have spearheaded the 9/11 Never Forget Project, which places American Flags on the lawn of the Yampa Valley Bank near downtown Steamboat Springs. Kyle Case started the project in 2014 before he passed the project on to the Sollars, who have now passed it on to Alley Kvols. The event is one of several that will take place this year marking 20 years since the 9/11 attacks.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

Saturday marks 20 years since terrorists associated with the Islamic extremist group Al Qaeda hijacked four commercial airliners setting in motion one of the darkest days in U.S. history.

On that day, the terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York City by crashing two of those planes, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, into the towers of the World Trade Center. The damage and fire that followed would turn both the north and south towers into piles of rubble.

The third plane, American Airlines Flight 77, was crashed into the western side of The Pentagon, and the final plane United Airlines Flight 93, crashed in a field southeast of Pittsburgh, short of its intended target after passengers struggled with hijackers.



In the days that followed, Americans came together, cried together and formed a bond of unity through a shared sense of grief.

“It’s just important to support the country after such an assault,” said Kathy Diemer, who owns Johnny B. Goods Diner with her husband, Mike. “I think it was the first time in our lives, my life, that we had felt threatened.”

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Mike’s younger brother David was working in one of the buildings on the World Trade Center campus but was not at his job site that day. Their sister Karen was across the river and witnessed the towers’ collapse. Their other sister, Heidi, worked for a tool company that provided knee pads and respirators to those who responded to the scene in the days following the attack.

The Diemers were camping on the day of the attack, but when they started home the following day, Mike’s phone blew up with messages.

His family was not directly impacted, but during the past 19 years, the Diemers have paid a debt of gratitude by inviting first responders to stop by the diner on 9/11 and enjoy a free meal. Like so many other people in Steamboat Springs, they were touched by the events of that day and are now giving back.

In honor of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, several community events are planned.

A day to be patriotic

Mike and Valery Lozano are inviting the community to a 9/11 Patriots Day Memorial Gathering, which will take place from 3-8 p.m. Saturday at the Warhorse Ranch at 21850 Routt County Road 56. The ranch, located just 10 minutes north of Steamboat, is an equine-assisted therapy facility devoted to empowering veterans, first responders and trauma survivors who live with PTSD, anxiety and depression.

“We will be celebrating the indomitable spirit of America, which brought unity, courage, selflessness and perseverance in the days, months and years that followed Sept. 11,” Mike Lozano said. “What we want is to bring back the 9/12 feel, where everybody in the country was united.”

Lozano said veterans with the American Legion and VFW posts have been invited to attend along with first responders from across Routt County.

“In recognition of all the victims who passed away on 9/11, we’re going to have 2,977 flags in the pasture … and we’re going to have the 21-gun salute and the Color Guard,” Lozano said.

The band Incognito will play, and several donors are providing food, drinks and other items to help the community come together.

Visit WarHorseRanch.org for more information.

A time of remembrance

A 9/11 Remembrance is planned for 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Yampa River Botanic Park. The event began in 2012 by Heart of Steamboat United Methodist Church Pastor Tim Selby, and in the years that followed, longtime local Harriet Freiberger carried on the tradition. This year, she’s handed it off to Perry and Mary Ann Ninger.

“We’ve been involved with Harriet’s event basically since the beginning,” Perry said. “We were in the New York area up until two months before 9/11, and both myself and Mary Ann worked in the vicinity of ground zero.”

The 9/11 Remembrance offers an opportunity for the community to come together to share their stories about that day and its impacts.

“She (Mary Ann) actually did work in the World Trade Center for a number of years, and I worked across the street at the World Financial Center,” Perry said. “We grew up with all of that, we have a lot of history with that, and there’s a lot of stories around our history with it … and unfortunately, we were both touched by the people who were lost.”

Planting flags with the post-9/11 generation

Since 2014, the Yampa Valley Bank lawn has served as a reminder of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and provided a connection for generations that are too young to remember the events of that day.

This year, Alley Kvols, who was born after the 9/11 attacks, will lead the effort to place flags on the bank lawn — 2,977 flags for the people who died in the attacks and another 3,500 for those who died from injuries suffered in the attacks and illness brought on after breathing the toxic fumes and dust at ground zero.

The 9/11 Never Forget flag project was started in 2014 by Steamboat Springs High School student Kyle Case. He continued the project for three years before handing it off to Kendra Sollars and her brother Paxton. The twins graduated from Steamboat last spring, and their mom, Claire Sollars, said Alley stepped up to continue the project this year and plans are in the works to make the project sustainable into the future.

“Our goal is to set up the program so that it’s a sustaining community event that we will be predominantly handled by students,” Sollars said. “It’s still in the beginning stages, but we should have it up and running and our board set up probably by the early part of next year.”

Sollars said the flags will be planted Friday afternoon by student groups, organizations and volunteers. She said the High Point 4-H group will be helping, and Yampa Valley High School students will take down the flags.

“So the idea is to get student groups involved and then select one or two students who are representatives of those groups to be leaders,” Sollars said. “The ultimate goal is to make it more sustainable, if you will, just by having more people aware of what we’re doing.”


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