In Steamboat, frustration mixes with fear
September 15, 2001
Steamboat Springs — In the basement of Off the Beaten Path book store, Greg Crasso listened intently to the radio as he mixed batter for bread to be sold in the store’s coffee shop.
Last week’s terrorist attacks on the United States hit close to home for the 30-year-old Crasso, whose brother lives only 20 blocks from the World Trade Center Towers.
“He was safe, but knowing that he was there when it happened made that image of the towers collapsing more real,” Crasso said.
He said he struggles to comprehend the incredible loss of life and property.
“We tend to live in a bubble here,” Crasso said. “We’re in Colorado, in this pristine place, and the kind of devastation that we saw on Tuesday seems so far removed from us.”
Upstairs, just beyond the book store’s entrance, Dana Duckles stood with her friends.
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It took several days, Duckles said, for her to come to terms with what happened.
“I just feels like it has to do with everybody, like we’re all in this together,” she said. “We have to be all in this together because it affects every one of us, wherever we live.”
Duckles, 30, said she sympathizes with the people who live in New York City and cannot avoid the obvious signs of a city torn apart.
“They have to live with this tragedy every day,” she said.
Duckles said she is happy that the government has moved swiftly with its investigation, identifying several of the hijackers and arresting several more suspects. But she also hopes the government will continue to exercise caution.
“We need some time,” Duckles said. “We just shouldn’t go and bomb and take out civilians. That’s not what we’re after.”
Across the street from the book store on a bench outside the Harbor Hotel, Fred Williams enjoyed his final night in Steamboat Springs.
Stranded since Tuesday, Williams, 38, was relieved that he would finally be able to catch a flight Saturday to his home in Miami.
He said he is anxious to return to his family and friends to hear their thoughts about the attacks.
People in Miami can appreciate New Yorkers’ knack for coming together when a crisis hits, he said.
“Cities like ours are so diverse, but when times get tough, we know that we need to work together,” he said.
Further down Lincoln Avenue, Terry Gonzalez was working at the Steamboat Shirt Company. Since Tuesday, many of Gonzalez’s customers have been stranded tourists like Williams, who were unable to fly back home because of the closure of all airports.
“A lot of them come back here every day because they can’t leave Steamboat Springs,” she said. “I tell them that at least they are stuck in a beautiful place.”
Gonzalez, 38, said she is fearful of what might happen when the United States retaliates for the attacks.
“Having an 18-year-old son and hearing all these rumors of war, it can be a scary thing,” she said.
But Gonzalez said she has faith that Americans will be united.
Across the street, a sign propped up beside the door to Johnny B. Good’s Diner offered a free meal to firemen, policemen and military personnel in light of their heroic efforts to help victims of the attacks.
Inside, bartender Steve Tompsett said the customers he has seen in the past week have all been moved in some way by Tuesday’s terrorist strikes.
“You see it on their faces,” Tompsett said. “Some people really show their emotions and some keep to themselves. This is something that affects everyone, but they all deal differently with the situation.”
Tompsett, 28, said he struggles to understand why so many people who had no malice toward their attackers suddenly became their victims.
“Those people just went to work, they were doing their basic routine, and unfortunately a tragic thing happened,” he said. “It was an act of cowardice.”
The heavy television coverage has been difficult to watch, Tompsett said, and now he tries to avoid the constant reminders of violence.
Nine-year-old Jesse Kamieniecki leaned over to tell Tompsett that he first heard about the terrorist attack on television Tuesday morning.
Kamieniecki and his friend Dalton Lee, 10, were eating ice cream cones at the diner.
“I saw the plane crash into the World Trade Tower,” Kamieniecki said. “It definitely scared me because it was real.”
Lee said his aunt was on the second floor of one of the towers when the plane slammed into it.
“She got out O.K., but it was freaky,” Lee said.
Both of the boys agreed the person at fault should be found as soon as possible.
They have a supporter further down the street at Mocha Molly’s.
Paging through newspaper headlines of America’s deadly tragedy, Todd Oparowski’s frustration is obvious.
He is concerned that reports of politicians’ tough words about action and justice will eventually turn to inaction and injustice.
“We’ve done it in the past,” Oparowski said. “The World Trade Center was bombed before and our embassies were bombed. We were outraged, but we took no action beyond that.”
Oparowski, 32, said he is worried that retaliation efforts will produce more casualties than victories if terrorism is to be the enemy. Americans must be willing to endure more images of their own dying if war is what they want, he added .
Prime suspect Osama “bin Laden is just one terrorist,” he said. “You can get rid of him, but you haven’t defeated terrorism. You can’t kill terrorism.”
Jens Irish, seated next to Oparowski, said the attacks on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon have made him keenly aware of the country’s vulnerability to violence.
“It kind of flows in the back of your thought process, and then every now and again it hits you that it actually happened,” Irish said.
Irish, 19, said that while he is angry innocent victims were used to make a point, he hopes the country can avoid doing the same thing in retaliation.
“How many more people are going to have to die in the name of justifiable terrorism?” he asked. “We need to know who we are waging war against before we decide to make war.”
Down at the movie theater, relief manager Lila Stucker said no one has escaped what happened in New York City and Washington, D.C.
That includes the theater “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” was supposed to open Friday night, but the ban on air travel delayed the time it was supposed to arrive from Los Angeles, Stucker said.
“I don’t think anybody, no matter how far away you live, is removed from it,” Stucker said. “You always have some connection.”
Outside, “God bless America” shared the marquee with the names of the films now showing.
Passersby look up occasionally and smile, and a few cars honk their horns in approval.
To reach Danie Harrelson call 871-4208 or e-mail email@example.com