Sept. 11 effects linger


What: A tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks Where: Yampa River Botanic Park When: 5 p.m. Sept. 11 What: Peace potluck hosted by the Steamboat Springs Peace and Justice Center Where: 410 Pine St. When: 5 p.m. Sept. 11 Participants will view "Beyond the Patriot Act," a documentary by the American Civil Liberties Union

— Like many Americans, Mary Ann and Perry Ninger have painful memories of Sept. 11. For them, the day and its aftermath were particularly difficult because they were in Steamboat Springs, not New York City, when the terrorist attacks occurred.

The couple moved to Steamboat from New Jersey two months before Sept. 11. Mary Ann Ninger had worked in the World Trade Center for 10 years, and her husband worked just across the street.

They didn't return to New York City until spring 2002.

"Somehow, both of us have never felt closure. ... It was our world, and it was gone," said Mary Ann Ninger, who worked for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey -- which owned and operated the World Trade Center -- and lost co-workers in the attacks.

Although the horror of that day has become easier to cope with over time, it is something Mary Ann still thinks about each day.

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the attacks that killed almost 3,000 people in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania and forever changed the world as most Americans knew it.

Being so far away from her former home still is hard -- not many people in Routt County have such personal connections to the attacks.

"There's definitely a disconnect, and that's hard to deal with," she said.

Mary Ann Ninger plans to reflect on the tragedies at a memorial today at Yampa River Botanic Park.

There will be no speeches during the 15-minute memorial. Participants will sit quietly, listen to soothing music and "just help each other along," explained Harriet Freiberger, who has helped organize the tribute for several years.

Although Freiberger had no direct connection to Sept. 11, she felt personally attacked -- a feeling she said has made her braver and more thankful for the men and women protecting the U.S. from terrorism.

Steamboat may be far from New York and Washington, but residents here need to put themselves in the place of people affected by the events, she said.

"I think we all need to take it very personally," Freiberger said.

Although the memories of the Sept. 11 attacks may be fading in the minds of some Americans, widespread changes that resulted from the attacks are part of everyday life across the country.

Those changes span from the way businesses and agencies operate to the way Americans view their rights and roles in their communities and governments.

Heightened security measures have become a daily routine for law enforcement officials as well as staff at utility companies and airports, which regularly receive bulletins from federal agencies.

"There's more fluent communication flow between the Homeland Security Office and the FBI and smaller offices like ours," Steamboat Springs police Capt. Joel Rae said.

Although Steamboat isn't an obvious terrorist target, police have been more vigilant in watching for suspicious situations, he said.

Yampa Valley Regional Airport, which last year finally experienced passenger numbers reminiscent of pre-Sept. 11 travel, constantly must keep up with the latest security and screening measures and pass those updates on to airport staff and passengers, said Ann Copeland, interim airport manager.

"I think, overall, the flying public is understanding what they can and can't take on (the plane)," she said.

Security also is tighter at the Hayden Power Station, where there are more security cameras and visitors are more thoroughly screened, Xcel Energy spokesman Mark Stutz said.

Some residents think that not all post-Sept. 11 changes are positive.

Linda Lewis of the Steamboat Springs Peace and Justice Center is concerned that parts of the Patriot Act -- such as investigations of library records and book sales -- abridge Americans' rights.

Lewis is hosting a peace potluck today to discuss issues related to the Sept. 11 attacks and peaceful resolutions to terrorism. Participants also will watch the first part of "Beyond the Patriot Act," a documentary by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Peace and Justice Center wants to encourage a community discussion about the issues and prevent fragmented views that can make people feel alone and powerless, Lewis said.

"Our goal is to get people participating in our democracy," she said.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares call 871-4204 or e-mail


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