Steamboat Springs Thousands of miles from where the World Trade Center twin towers once stood, a dozen people were reassured that there were others out there who, like them, still felt the losses of Sept. 11, 2001.
The small group that gathered Saturday at the Yampa River Botanic Park all felt some sort of connection to the momentous and tragic terrorist attacks that occurred nine years ago.
Steamboat Springs resident Harriet Freiberger, who has organized the annual remembrance ceremony since two years after the attacks, said the gathering helps the healing process in a small way.
“It helps us to be together again,” Freiberger said. “This division we all seem to be divided into from morning to night. … If people get one thing out of this, it’s just being together.”
The group sat scattered
on the grass and listened to recorded patriotic music as the sun set behind the pine trees.
Afterward, a few people shared their stories as they stood in a circle, nodding at one another’s tales and jumping in with their own memories.
Steamboat resident Ed Miklus was one of several of the attendees from northern New Jersey. He was a superintendent of a school district in Monmouth County, an area that lost about 250 people in the World Trade Center attacks.
He recalled the way the smoke drifted from Manhattan over Sandy Hook Bay, and he said he’d never forget the three children in his district who lost their father that day.
“Even with all the resources I had, the school counselors and psychologists, it took us six months to get the first-grader back in school,” he said. “There’s a tragedy beyond the deaths that extends to what happened to the families. We have to keep remembering. We have to remember that these were people who just went to work.”
Miklus gestured up at Jack Diemer, 2, who was sitting on the shoulders of his father, Mike, not knowing that he’ll someday read about Sept. 11 in his history books.
“We have to look at that young boy up there, wearing the Sailors cap,” Miklus said. “We have to protect our country so he can grow up.”
Perry and Mary Ann Ninger looked on, nodding. Both had worked in the World Trade Center — Mary Ann in one of the twin towers — and lived in New Jersey. They moved to Steamboat just months before the attacks.
“It still feels fresh,” said Mary Ann Ninger, who wore a small, bejeweled pin depicting the twin towers. “I feel like the weather today is just like it was on that day. I have just a tinge of survivor’s guilt, I think.”
Perry Ninger agreed it didn’t quite feel like it had been nine years. He said the images of that day affected him deeply, even though he was half a continent away.
“I don’t need to see it again,” Perry Ninger said. “It’s burned in my memory like charred wood.”