Colorado Remembers 9-11

The Colorado Statesman

They brought flags, picnic lunches and deeply seared memories to a downtown park on the afternoon of Sept. 11 to commemorate the same day 10 years ago when everything changed.

By turns mournful and festive, the ‘Colorado Remembers 9/11’ event included patriotic speeches delivered by the state’s most prominent elected officials, mighty Air Force jets flying overhead, and a rousing concert by the Beach Boys, but the stars of the occasion were the roughly 500 military, police, firefighters and other emergency responders honored for their courage and standing for their fallen brethren.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet acknowledges the crowd in Denver on Sept. 11.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

“This ceremony is more than just a remembrance of the past and a tribute to the fallen,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper from the stage at Civic Center Park. “It is also a tribute to the living and all that we have learned about our nation and our collective humanity as a result of that fateful day in 2001.”

It was a note sounded by all who addressed the estimated 35,000 who gathered on a sunny afternoon to recall the events of Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists hijacked four airliners and flew them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in rural Pennsylvania.

Capitol flyover
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

Other speakers included Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, and U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette. Seated offstage were her fellow members of Colorado’s congressional delegation, U.S. Reps. Jared Polis, Cory Gardner, Doug Lamborn, Mike Coffman and Ed Perlmutter, in addition to state legislators, city council members and sponsors of the event.

Nearby, a flatbed truck bearing massive remains of the World Trade Center stood.

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall bends down so he can get in a photo with young reporter Caroline Jeffords from the Denver Post’s nextgen program.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

Hickenlooper cast a light on the heroic first responders, including hundreds who perished, and the brave passengers of United Flight 93, who took control of the hijacked plane and forced it to crash before it reached its target. He also credited the men and women in uniform for protecting the freedoms the terrorists sought to bring down.

“In the darkest moments,” Hickenlooper said, “we witnessed true compassion and true courage and extraordinary heroism from ordinary men and women. the actions taken on that day.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-CD 6, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-CO, Reps. Cory Gardner, R-CD 4, and Ed Perlmutter, D-CD 7, pose together behind the stage at Denver’s Civic Center Park after the program commemorating the ten-year anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. The entire congressional delegation from Colorado was in attendance at the downtown event except for Rep. Scott Tipton, who participated in programs in Grand Junction that day.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

As the dignitaries spoke, a solemn procession of soldiers, law enforcement and emergency workers from all around the state made its way from the State Capitol through the park, passing by the giant hunks of steel that symbolize the fallen towers. Among the pieces of the wreckage were enormous, deformed beams from the North Tower and gears from an elevator shaft in the South Tower.

Sr. Airman Kerrie Gill, left, and Airman 1st Class Erin Roup, gather in the shadow of the state Capitol on the morning of Sept. 11 before the ‘Colorado Remembers 9/11’ memorial event. Both are members of the Air National Guard out of Buckley Air Force Base.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Some of the remnants of the World Trade Center are destined to be part of a memorial to the victims of terrorism scheduled for completion next year at Denver’s Babi Yar Park, near Parker Road and South Havana Street, in a project sponsored by the Mizel Museum and the Babi Yar Park Foundation. Other pieces will be on display at the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab, or The CELL, a museum adjacent to Civic Center Park. The CELL was a prime sponsor of the event, along with the Denver Post, 9News and AEG Live Rocky Mountains.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar addresses the crowd at a commemorative 9/11 event in Denver’s Civic Center Park on Sept. 11. Salazar recounted the dedication of a memorial to the passengers of United Flight 93 in rural Pennsylvania earlier that weekend.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“These artifacts serve as an important symbol of the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001, and the many men and women who have perished protecting us overseas from terrorists and those nations that support terrorism,” said Hancock, whose wife, Mary Louise Lee, sang “Amazing Grace” with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra minutes later.

“These artifacts also stand as a stark reminder to Colorado, to Denver, to all of us, of our obligation to work together to keep our community safe and secure,” he said.

Colorado officials, from left, Gov. John Hickenlooper, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, and U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, bow their heads during a moment of silence to remember the victims of the 9/11 attacks during an event to mark the day's 10th anniversary on Sept. 11 at Civic Center Park in Denver.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Salazar recounted the previous day’s dedication of a memorial to Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa., to honor the passengers who “gave us a great legacy of courage that inspires us and inspires our future.”

Service members strike a bell to mark the demise of each of four airline flights on the morning of Sept. 11 a decade earlier.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“Flight 93 today joins the hallowed grounds of places like Gettysburg, Yorktown, Selma and Pearl Harbor as a place where patriots gave their lives so that we can enjoy the freedoms that we enjoy across this great nation today,” Salazar said. “It is my hope that all those who visit Flight 93 National Memorial from throughout our country and throughout the world will make sure that the lives of those lost on Sept. 11 are never, never forgotten.”

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette listens as a bugler plays taps in honor of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks during a 10th anniversary memorial ceremony on Sept. 11 in Denver’s Civic Center Park.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Salazar continued with a plea for the unity that gripped the nation in the wake of the attacks.

“It is my hope that the unity that rose after the death and destruction of that day in New York and in Pennsylvania and in Washington will once again rise to strengthen our divided nation and our divided world,” Salazar said. He added, “Today we are reminded we all share in all of our nation’s triumphs, today we are reminded we all share in all of our nation’s trials. We are reminded we are all one people, no matter what your party, no matter where you’re from, no matter what your background.”

U.S. Reps. Doug Lamborn, a Republican, and Diana DeGette, a Democrat, share a moment after the ceremony honoring the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks 10 years later.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Udall brought the crowd to its feet to cheer for the military men and women who marched alongside the ceremony, saying, “They stand guard over us — let them know that we stand for them.”

He seconded Salazar’s urging that the country stand together as it did after the terrorist attacks.

Mary Louise Lee, Denver’s first lady, sings “Amazing Grace” while the Colorado Symphony plays behind her during the ‘Colorado Remembers 9/11’ memorial event on Sept. 11 in Denver. After the CSO played, the Beach Boys took the stage.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“Our deep beliefs in freedom and democracy unite us now, as they did after 9/11, because we know they are stronger than any enemy or any evil,” Udall said. “Let us commit today in tribute to the heroes of 9/11 to stand in the face of whatever future adversity or hardship presents itself.”

Hailing the emergency responders, including police officers, sheriffs’ deputies, state patrol officers, fire fighters and EMS workers from the far corners of Colorado, Bennet brought the crowd to its feet again.
“In our time of anguish, we responded with a sense of courage and compassion that is uniquely American, as one America, as we are today,” he said.

Pieces of the wreckage of the World Trade Center sit on a flatbed truck parked on Bannock Street in downtown Denver on Sept. 11. The twisted steel will be displayed at The CELL museum and at a memorial to victims of terrorism at Babi Yar Park in southeast Denver.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Like so many that day, DeGette brought to life stark memories of the attacks, recounting how she assured her staff they would be safe in the Capitol until moments later when the evacuation order came. It’s important, she said, to carry those memories forward not in fear but with courage.

“Ten years later,” she said, “the images, the emotions, the awe of that horrible day are still vivid in my mind and they are so heavy in my heart. But so is the resolve to never let the hatred and violence of the terrorists’ acts allow us to lose the character that makes America great.

After the speeches, Lamborn said an important legacy of Sept. 11 was the unity it inspired across the land.

“I remember that morning so well,” he said, “and I remember thinking the country would never be the same again, but not in the sense that there was any remote possibility we could be defeated — that was not in the cards — but rather that we would band together, we would unite, and we would become stronger, and that’s exactly what happened. And we see that today.”

Hickenlooper summed up the spirit of the event, which included invocations from a range of clergy and a deafening moment of silence to honor those who died during the attacks, but soon gave way to music that filled downtown with brighter notes.

“We reflect on the events of Sept. 11, 2001,” he said. “The sadness, the raw emotion, can be overwhelming. But let us also recognize our humanity in the face of that attack, and our country’s unyielding will to prevail.”

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com