Glenwood, Garfield County residents reflect on 9-11-01 attacks on 20th anniversary
Tiffany Ferris had become so disillusioned by the mainstream news media as a Colorado Mountain College student in Glenwood Springs in September 2001 that she had all but unplugged.
“A lot of the news sources were pushing more and more propaganda, so I had stopped listening to the news,” she said.
So, when she walked into her drama class the morning of Sept. 11 she was taken aback to see so many faces looking somber and shocked.
She soon learned the news of the terrorists’ elaborately orchestrated attack on the United States using hijacked commercial airlines to bring down the World Trade Center towers in New York City and crashing others into the Pentagon and in rural Pennsylvania. The death count would eventually reach 3,000.
“It really reminded me how important it is to not be disconnected like that,” Ferris said. “But it was so hard to find a decent filter to get news without the biased opinion.”
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That aside, she knew something needed to be done locally to memorialize the lives lost. So, she organized a candlelight vigil at Sayre Park in Glenwood Springs.
Scores of people showed up. Many took turns sharing their thoughts about how they felt impacted. The group closed the vigil singing “Amazing Grace.”
In the days to follow, friends of Ferris’s in New York City working with Americorps’ City Year program would volunteer to help feed people who were displaced or distressed awaiting word about the fate of loved ones.
The following year, Ferris passed her candle on to another CMC student who organized a one-year anniversary vigil of remembrance.
“That was a real turning point for America, where we all realized how we can be touched by a single event like that,” Ferris reflects today. “It gave us a new perspective on the world.”
She still lives in Glenwood Springs and makes a living making soap through her Crystal River Soapery business, as well as working as a massage therapist and housekeeper.
“I still find it concerning where to really get the news from,” she said. “It just feels like it’s a biased point of view wherever you go. I just want the facts, like Walter Cronkite reported, so I can make my own opinion.”
Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson was an American government and social studies teacher at Rifle High School at the time of the attacks.
He recalled this week that he was coming home from an early morning church meeting to get ready to teach that day when he turned on the radio.
“It was just surreal,” Samson said. “It just kept flashing in my mind that this was some kind of sick Orson Wells ‘War of the Worlds’ joke. Who would do such a stupid thing?”
Once home, he and wife Janet turned on the TV and it became all too real.
“It was still pretty hard for me to comprehend, and there was still a lot of disbelief that carried the day,” he said.
The lesson plan went out the window that day in class.
“Many of the students were like me, it was just so hard to grasp,” he said. “And it wasn’t the first time we talked about it. For weeks, we talked about how we need strong organization in our government, and to recognize that we have enemies in the world and that we have to be able to defend ourselves.”
Some students he taught were already planning to go into active military service after high school. Others likely decided that day to join them, Samson said.
“If I were still in the classroom, my ongoing lesson would be to let this be a learning experience for all of us, and that we should never forget,” Samson said. “A lot of Americans have been born since then and are young adults now. They need to know. We can’t forget.”
Trési Houpt of Glenwood Springs sat on the Roaring Fork School District Board of Education at the time, and recalled that she had just put her kids on the bus to school when she heard the news on the car radio.
“My first thought as a parent and a school board member was of the children in the community,” she said. “I ended up driving from school to school in Glenwood just to make sure the kids were OK and that they were cared for.
“It was just a day where I felt as if I needed to be out in the community making sure I was there for those I loved.”
Houpt said the experience of that day and the days and months to follow strengthened her resolve to serve the community. The next year she would run for and win a seat on the Garfield County Board of County Commissioners, eventually serving eight years on the board.
“There was a great deal of confusion across the country, and blaming without clear understanding of evidence,” Houpt said. “Even today, there’s a feeling for people that we need to work to bring the world together, but there’s a pretty clear understanding that we have a long way to go.”
Alex Alvarado had immigrated to the United States as a small child with his family from Mexico, landing in Carbondale in the 1990s.
He vaguely remembers being in elementary school that fateful September day a few years later, sitting on the classroom rug about to read a book when he and his classmates began to hear the news.
“Being so young, it was a pretty intense moment. At that age, the first thing you think is sadness,” Alvarado said.
Later, he started to realize and understand the legal aftermath of it all, and how certain policies that were put into place in the name of national security could be viewed as discriminatory.
“I’d never been on a plane before 9-11, so I don’t really know what it was like before that,” he said. “It also brought more constraints on the immigration system, and there was more random selecting of people of color at airports for inspection.”
Alvarado went on to help found a group of area high school and college students who wanted to bring attention to the struggles of “Dreamers,” children brought to the United States as young children who knew no other place as home, but were not documented citizens.
Today, Alvarado is married with two young children and just left the Roaring Fork Valley to study at law school in New Mexico. He said it’s interesting that some of the legal cases they’re studying have to do with insurance claims that came after the 9-11 attacks.
“I don’t think that the United States has fully recovered from that incident,” he said. “A lot of reconciliation needs to happen with people who are considered as outsiders.”
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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It may be by a technicality, but the Valley Valkyries 7s rugby club were the de facto champions of their hosted tournament this weekend.