Crossing the divide |

Crossing the divide

It was about a month ago when, looking ahead, we realized that the publication date for this week’s Aspen Times Weekly happened to fall on September 11.

We thought about it, two years after the historic and tragic bombing of the World Trade Center, and wondered if there were Aspen or Roaring Fork Valley stories that merited coverage.

Of course, the attacks and all that has ensued have been covered in the national news outlets. The nationwide story, at least, has evolved into a global war on terror, the Homeland Security Department and huge questions about civil liberties, national defense and foreign policy.

Locally, in our high-mountain aerie, it’s harder to know what the 9/11-related stories are. But soon the ideas began to trickle in.

Aspen native and Glenwood Springs resident John Barbee had served humanitarian missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and spoke with authority on what’s going right and what’s not. Former Aspen Mayor John Bennett was working with a Muslim cleric from New York to promote cross-cultural understanding through the Cordoba Initiative. Ed Bastian of Woody Creek had created the Spiritual Paths Foundation, which seeks to bring religions together by discussing the nature and core elements of faith. And, though Aspen is hardly a hotbed of Muslim activity, we found a practicing local Muslim and spoke also with her imam from Lakewood, near Denver.

These people aren’t on the front lines in the war on terror and weren’t necessarily affected directly by September 11. But like most Americans, their lives were changed two years ago, and they’re still trying to make sense of it. They’re also trying to heal some of the physical and emotional damage left by the terrorist attacks and America’s subsequent invasions abroad.

In the end, whether they’re working in the realm of physical infrastructure or philosophical ideas, these individuals are building bridges between cultures. They represent new ties between Islam and the West.

We decided to wrap these stories into a package about Aspen and the Middle East. To us, these stories show that the Roaring Fork Valley is still very much a part of the world at large. And though Aspenites may be removed from the actual machinery of war and nation-building, they’re still helping to build a better post-September 11 world.

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