Steamboat events remember somber anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks

Sophia Boyer plants flags in the front lawn of the Yampa Valley Bank on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023, as part of the "Never Forget Project," a display designed to mark the events on 9/11 and honor those that died.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Bruce Hannon still recalls dining in the Windows on the World restaurant on the 107th floor of North Tower of the World Trade Center in the early 1990s.

“I commuted for 20 years to the World Trade Center,” said Hannon, a former bond trader who now calls Steamboat Springs home. “It was a high-end restaurant on the upper floor. It was all glass, went around in circles and had a phenomenal wine list. They used to publish a Windows on the World book every year — I still have a copy of the last one.”

Hannon was asleep in his bed at the Waterstone condominiums in Steamboat Springs the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, as American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. His wife rustled him from his sleep when she saw it on the news.

“My wife woke me up and I turned to the television,” Hannon recalled. “I watched it. I watched the whole thing.”

It was a moment that touched every American and changed the country forever. For Hannon, who lived in New Jersey from 1971-93, the attack was personal, as he had friends in the building and knew several of the people who died that day.

“Chase Manhattan had a branch on the first floor, and Morgan Stanley had a big office there,” Hannon said. “One of my friends actually escaped from a high floor … Brian Clark from Toronto, Canada, he pulled another guy out and carried him downstairs.”

The terrorist attacks claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people in the two towers of the World Trade Center complex, the Pentagon and aboard United Flight 93. Those victims included 413 first responders including 343 firefighters, 60 police officers and 13 paramedics and emergency technicians.

Like most Americans, Hannon will never forget how the events of that day changed his life and the country. However, he said the number of those who died cannot be limited to that day because, in the years that followed, more than 7,000 soldiers died fighting the War on Terror — and then there are the soldiers who have taken their own lives.

“There have also been more than 30,000 veterans and soldiers that have (died by) suicide,” Hannon said. “That’s one of the things that this whole day brings back is the aftermath of the War on Terror and the tremendous veteran suicide that has ensued in this country since the 20 years of endless war.”

The victims of Sept. 11, as well as those who died fighting the War on Terror and from health issues after responding to Ground Zero, will be recognized Monday in Steamboat Springs.

Veterans Center tours

The Veterans Center, where Hannon is vice president and board director, will open its doors at 924 Lincoln Ave. from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday for tours. It will be a chance to see what is planned for the space, see renderings and some past artwork. There will be light refreshments available, and veterans will be there to talk with visitors.

Planting flags

One of the biggest Sept. 11 tributes in Routt County is the Never Forget Project, which is a display of more than 5,000 flags on the front lawn of the Yampa Valley Bank to honor the victims as well as the rescuers who died after being exposed to toxic materials at Ground Zero.

Alley Kvols is the third in a line of high school students who have spearheaded the effort, and she got a helping hand from her parents, Kevin and Ann Kvols, as well as volunteers Claire Sollars, Lauren Beversluis and Krista Colby. Members of the Steamboat High School cross country team and football team, as well as other community volunteers, also planted flags to help the effort.

“I started when I was a freshman,” Kvols said. “I was not born when it happened, but I think it’s just really important to celebrate the victims and honor them.”

Kvols, a junior at Steamboat Springs High School, said it is cool she has been able to pick up where Kendra and Paxton Sollars left off to continue the tradition of remembering Sept. 11.

“I thought that it was really cool that they asked me to do this,” Kvols said of organizing the flag planting. “I just think it’s really important to remember these people, their stories and never forget what happened on that day.”

As she looks forward to her senior year, Kvols said she would like to find her successor to hand the Never Forget Project off to.

“I think next year I’ll probably hand it off to somebody else,” Kvols said. “It’s been a really rewarding experience.”

Moment of silence

Steamboat Springs’ longest running tribute to the victims of Sept. 11 will take place at 5 p.m. Monday in the children’s amphitheater at the Yampa River Botanic Park.

“We normally do about 15 minutes of kind of contemplative music,” said Mary Ann Ninger, who is organizing this year’s event. “Then we just let people share their experiences. We’re usually there for about an hour, but it’s certainly not obligatory for anybody to stay an hour.”

The event was started in 2002 by Tim Selbe and has been carried on by Harriet Freiberger to remember the events of that day and honor those who perished. Ninger and her husband, Perry, have always been regulars at the event and took it over a couple of years ago.

“I worked in the World Trade Center for over two years,” Ninger said. “We moved here from the New York area two months before 9/11. I had worked there for a long time, and I have other connections to it as well. Perry worked across the street in the World Financial Center, and we met at the World Trade Center, so we have a lot of ties to it.”

Asked if she thinks the remembrance in Steamboat, and across the nation, is important, Ninger didn’t have to think about her response.

“We can never forget,” Ninger said. “It was a really traumatic day in our in our nation’s history, and we have to remember the victims and we have to remember going forward what we’ve learned from it.”

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