NYC firefighters to enjoy break in Steamboat
Steamboat Springs — For Hallie van Straaten, an eighth-grader, bringing New York firefighters to Steamboat was a feat finally accomplished after a few months of hard work.
Van Straaten has made arrangements with Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. and local firefighters to give New York firefighters affected by the Sept. 11 attacks a needed break in Steamboat during the first or second week of April.
“It’s surprising that everything is working out,” van Straaten said.
Van Straaten said between 15 and 20 firefighters and their families will visit Steamboat. She said she has planned their itinerary to include three days of skiing, a visit to the hot springs and pool as well as other activities.
Van Straaten’s decision to help the firefighters, she said, came through her two visits to New York City after the Sept. 11 attacks as well as her close ties to nine family members in the Big Apple.
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During van Straaten’s first visit to New York City, her parents took her to see ground zero.
“It smelled bad and there was dust over everything and windows were broken out,” van Straaten said. “I was afraid that at any moment another building would collapse or that I would see a dead body.”
After van Straaten returned home, the images of devastation haunted her. She decided she had to do something about what she saw and how she felt. She made a large poster to bring back to the people of New York City and had her fellow students sign both sides of her 11-by-three-foot sign.
“I wrote, ‘I love New York’ and stuff like that,” van Straaten said.
Van Straaten returned to New York City Oct. 13 and presented the sign to Engine 3, Ladder 12, Battalion 7, in which family members and fellow firefighters had gathered to mourn those they lost during the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. The fire station that Hallie gave her poster to had lost six men including one of their captains.
Van Straaten said the people were very happy and thankful for the poster.
“I think they appreciated how far it came from and the thought of it,” said Bill van Straaten, Hallie’s father. He said that various fire stations throughout the city were covered with flowers and that people were constantly bringing by food.
One of the firefighters told Hallie van Straaten that he had skied in every ski resort in Colorado except for Steamboat. So Hallie van Straaten made it her goal to get New York firefighters to Steamboat to ski.
Andy Wirth, vice president of marketing for Steamboat Resort Corp., said he was excited to help the firefighters and their families through the efforts of an outstanding young person in the community. He said he is working to make ski and lodging accommodations for the New York firefighters.
“I have a lot of respect for what these firefighters have been through,” said Wirth, who used to be a volunteer firefighter.
Charlie Biondo, a New York City firefighter, has said he is looking forward to skiing in Steamboat.
He said van Straaten’s effort was greatly appreciated and the timing was perfect.
Local firefighters have also volunteered to help the cause by offering the New York firefighters a place to stay or by helping Hallie van Straaten make arrangements.
Hallie van Straaten said that the local firefighters have been very helpful and have given her a lot of guidance.
The support van Straaten received has come from all over the community. One of van Straaten’s classmates, Adel Akkad, agreed to give van Straaten the money he raised for the Sept. 11 attacks from his vow to keep silent as long as he could.
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