Ten years later, Aspen honors the fallen heroes of 9/11
September 11, 2011
ASPEN – Aspen community members placed 343 roses in front of the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department on Sunday morning. Each rose represented a fallen first responder, and had an attached picture and a name of a victim who died 10 years ago, on Sept. 11, 2001.
Like most fire and police departments across the country, Aspen’s first responders led Sunday’s ceremony, focusing on remembering those who ran toward danger in the middle of the terrorist attacks. More than 200 somber onlookers filled East Hopkins Avenue, between Mill and Galena streets, reflecting on that terrifying Tuesday morning a decade ago.
“It has unbelievably been 10 years since we all watched in horror the events that would unfold on 9/11,” Deputy Fire Chief Rick Balentine said as he welcomed attendees to the ceremony. “I cannot even begin to imagine the pain that so many others are feeling on this day.”
The ceremony, which began at 7:30 a.m., featured a range of speakers from firefighters to police officers, as well as religious leaders, veterans and a few individuals who were in Manhattan on 9/11.
They included Balentine, Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo, retired Marine Lt. Col. Dick Merritt, and part-time Aspen resident and FEMA photojournalist Andrea Booher. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani granted Booher unlimited access to Ground Zero – she was only one of two photographers granted such access.
The Rev. Gregg Anderson and Rabbi David Segal offered their blessings at the event as well.
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Two traditional fire department tolling of the bells rang through downtown Aspen to memorialize the victims. Both sounded to coincide with the collapse of the two towers.
People also placed roses at the base of a tall slab of steel, a piece from Ground Zero, which stands in front of the fire station.
Aspen resident Dick Butera, who was in Lower Manhattan during the event, offered a compelling story. Butera, owner of a hotel in New York, described the explosion of the second plane hitting the South Tower, the thunder of the towers coming down, and the fear on the faces of those escaping the debris and wall of dust and smoke.
Butera was eating breakfast at his Wall Street hotel that morning.
“I ran out on to the terrace of my (hotel) room, and coming down Wall Street was the strangest sight man will ever see,” Butera recounted, “a 30-story thick, black cloud approaching.”
First responders later used Butera’s hotel as a feeding center, where he said he was grateful for the opportunity to spend time with them. He said they served 3,600 meals in the following days.
However, throughout most of Sunday’s ceremony, the crowd was quiet – much as New York City, the city that never sleeps – was after the attack, according to Butera.
“There was total silence in New York,” he said.