Anger and aid: N.Y. natives refuse to forget


— A year later, Mike Diemer still fights back tears when he talks about Sept. 11.

"What a waste," said Diemer, the owner of Johnny B. Good's Diner. "They killed a bunch of moms and dads. What did that accomplish?"

To many in Steamboat Springs, a year has numbed the shock of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, but for New Yorkers living here, the memory still rests close to home.

Diemer moved to Colorado from New York in 1988, but his family is still there.

"My brother was working next door to the towers and my sister watched the whole thing happen from Queens," he said. "People here are now so apathetic, but it's still hard for them back there."

Diemer was on a camping trip near Fruita when the planes hit the towers.

"I came out of the desert on Thursday and checked my messages," he said. "There was a message, 'Mike call home. The East Coast is in flames and we're at war.'"

He couldn't get through to his family, so he called the diner.

"They were basketcases," he said.

That week Diemer joined countless Steamboat residents in an attempt to raise money for the victims.

He and his wife had 250 T-shirts printed and sold them for $10 apiece. He sent the $2,500 that was raised to a Brooklyn firehouse Engine 207, Ladder 110 in honor of that firehouse's lieutenant and current Steamboat resident Kevin Nerney.

"That house took a big hit," Diemer said. "They lost a lot of men."

Diemer visited ground zero last week for the first time since the attacks.

"It's a 16-acre tomb for 2,800 people," he said. "It was tough to see. I think everyone should be required to go there."

On Sept. 11, 2002, a year after the attacks, Diemer is still trying to do anything he can to support victims of the attacks. All firefighters and police officers will eat free today and he plans to donate 11 percent of his profits to the Brooklyn firehouse.

Diemer is also working on a coffeetable book of the crayon drawings young customers made on their placemats after the attacks.

It started with a drawing from Steamboat sisters Valerie, Alexis and Barbara Lezin.

They wrote a message to the firefighters on their placemats and Diemer hung them on the wall of the restaurant.

"After that, it snowballed," he said. "It was the best thing that I got out of all this. It's powerful to see how the kids were affected."

He took more than 200 placemats to a professional printer in New York and when the book is finished, he will donate the proceeds to the New York firefighters.

"These attacks haven't been off my mind since they happened," he said.

Diemer isn't the only Steamboat New Yorker who can't forget.

Chad Gagliano, owner of Levelz and Lupo's in Ski Time Square, held a fund-raiser last year to benefit the Sept. 11 Relief Fund. Performers, a disc jockey and the Levelz staff donated time to the event. All sales and tips $4,414 went to New York.

Matching funds from the Fort Collins Stryker Short Foundation doubled the donation.

Tonight, Gagliano will host another fund-raiser in honor of Sept. 11 at Lupo's.

All the profits from the night will be donated to Colorado wildfire fighting efforts.

He plans to hold a fund-raiser every year on Sept. 11. Every penny raised will go to a different cause each year.

"I grew up in New York," Gagliano said. "I had a lot of friends that passed away and my dad was a cop in New York.

"This is a great day to remember as Americans," he said. "New Yorkers are so rough, but now New York is a changed place. Everyone came together on that day. From now on, it's not about business or profit on that day."


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