Locals react to Sept. 11 anniversary
SUMMIT COUNTY – A mountain of emotion tumbled down on Americans when terrorists attacked the the United States Sept. 11, 2001. Kurt Kizer and about 40 other locals placed a flag at the summit of Peak 1 five days after the tragedy to deal with their grief.
Kizer organized the hike because he wanted to do something productive – and something physical – to help himself and others.
“I believe that it was the single most wonderful community event that I’ve ever experienced,” Dillon resident and hiker Joe Evankovich said. “I believe something like that can stay with you. Before that hike, I was thinking of leaving Summit County because of its transient nature. Now, I’m staying. Every day, I make a conscious decision to be involved in my community.”
Today, Kizer, along with at least 60 other hikers, will replace the flag, now tattered, in remembrance of the victims of 9-11. Like others today, the hikers will come together to share thoughts and feelings on the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
For some, the overwhelming feelings are of gratitude and a commitment to living life more fully.
“It makes me realize how lucky I am to live here – to not take for granted doing the things you want to do,” Kizer said. “I’ve always had a sense of spirituality, but (Sept. 11) seemed like it helped other people. I enjoyed seeing people come together and help each other out. If anything comes out of Sept. 11, hopefully, the sense of community comes out of it.”
The sense of community has changed Evankovich’s life.
“It has changed me in every way,” he said. “I have a small flag I brought to the top of Peak One, and I look at it everyday and say a prayer. I think my daily tribulations are so minor as compared to what those people went through.”
Evankovich, who works at the Dillon Post Office, also has become more tolerant of other people’s opinions and tastes.
“I try to find a common ground that we share, and I find that my job has even more value,” he said. “With 9-11 and the anthrax scare, I’m more aware of just how fragile life is. I was at Larimer Square in February, and some young kids were fighting, and I yelled “stop.’ That’s minor, but before 9-11, I don’t think I would have ever responded, especially in a big city. The kindness displayed after 9-11 affected me for the long haul. Maybe I was a guy searching for heroes, and I found them.”
Digging deeper into spiritual matters
Both the horrific terrorism and the outpouring of kindness after Sept. 11 shook people up, affecting them spiritually. Frisco resident Matt Stevens’ friend died in a helicopter crash in Pakistan in October.
“It goes down the line, affecting everybody,” Stevens said. “It becomes a bigger community thing to heal each other. I try to take a longer, harder look toward all of creation to see if we can’t curb our greed and waste.”
Most places of worship in Summit County saw a dramatic increase in attendance, especially on the Sunday after the attack.
“Attendance was high the Sunday after, but things leveled off the very next Sunday,” said Kristen Pacot, secretary at the Rocky Mountain Bible Church in Frisco. “However, our numbers are higher for this summer than last summer. I think it has to do more with other factors though (such as new church programs).”
Ron Griffin, from St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Breckenridge, said his attendance increased about 34 percent. The numbers haven’t dropped since then, but he believes the terrorist attacks were responsible only for increases through Thanksgiving.
Some pastors, such as Russ Goodrum at Abundant Life Church in Silverthorne, reported attendance increased a bit but then leveled out as Americans began to feel more secure, particularly because of the war on terrorism.
Many pastors, Goodrum included, saw more dedication by members of their congregation. Pastor Gary Stallings, of Agape Outpost, saw attendance increase – and remain high – at prayer meetings and memorial services.
“The Sept. 11 situation caused people to become more religiously in tune, and they were taking seriously their walk with God,” said Stan Johnson, of the Summit County Church of Christ in Frisco. “We did have some increased attendance, and I think that hasn’t diminished. People are still in that position, being aware of eternal life and what happens if something tragic happens in the United States. I think the awareness is especially up.”
Father Leo Smith of Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church in Dillon and St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Breckenridge noticed an increase in daily Mass attendance even before Sept. 11, and said daily worshippers now stay and discuss local and national issues.
“Generally speaking, after the initial shock, people tend to go back to their routine. People who go (to church) continue, people who didn’t (go to church) don’t stick with it,” Smith said.
Jeff Estes of High County Baptist Church in Frisco didn’t see any difference regarding attendance.
“I talked to a couple different guys, and they didn’t see an increase either like other parts of the nation did,” Estes said.
Pledging allegiance to the flag
Spirituality and religious inclinations aren’t the only issues 9-11 brought up. Many Americans feel a resurgence of patriotism.
Korean War Army veteran and Frisco resident Bert Synder felt saddened by the lack of patriotism before Sept. 11.
“Thankfully, the nation as a whole has changed,” Synder said. “I think it really brought out a new surge of patriotism. I think it woke people up a lot to care for each other, especially in the first few weeks or months, and I pray it continues.”
Breckenridge resident Amy Hildebrandt’s patriotism grew stronger, as did her commitment to helping others.
“When I see the flag, I have more respect for it,” Hildebrandt said. “I wanted to be an emergency medical technician before Sept. 11, but it was just a wake-up call on how serious that (work) is, and I’m really willing to do it.”
“I definitely appreciate our freedom more,” Breckenridge resident Holly Malmsten said.
“I feel we came together as a nation,” Frisco resident Mary Bigler said. “It helped everyone band together and join together – not that it means I agree with everything the president of the United States does.”
Her 9-year-old daughter, Lily Bigler, agreed adults have become more patriotic, and she has seen a big change in the school system regarding how much teachers talk about 9-11.
“It feels like it’s been just yesterday,” Lily Bigler said. “I feel a little more patriotic, but I would really like world peace better than having to go make war.”
Forming strong political opinions
Since 9-11, many people have changed their views of world politics and war.
“My attitude toward world politics has changed to more of a hard-lined approach, to go in if there are people who are threats to freedom and to the American way of life,” said James Stephenson, manager of Silverthorne’s Rexel-Colotex. “We should go in and take care of them. If you go in and take care of the leaders, you take care of the problem, because the people are following the leader. I’ve learned to pray more for our leaders to have the wisdom they need.”
“My perception that we are protected here has changed,” Kremmling resident Cookie Johnson said. “This country has turned its back on God. We cannot expect to be protected when the nation is not turning to the Protector. Bush needs to complete the war on terrorism everywhere.”
Developing global awareness
In addition to changing viewpoints, people have become more aware of global events in general.
“We’re not as secluded as we think we are,” Silverthorne resident Elizabeth Oldham said. “I hope it will make me more sensitive to people of other nationalities and countries.”
“It brought a lot of Americans into a consciousness that the rest of the world always has had, just of the reality of terror,” Breckenridge resident Jeff Cox said. “I think we’ve always looked at the world through rose-colored glasses. Sept. 11 brought the reality of the world’s problems to our doorstep. It instilled in me a sense of needing to know about the world and its workings, globally instead of just nationally.”
By taking off rose-colored glasses, many people feel less safe.
“It made me less complacent with safety in the entire country – the airports, looking at neighbors,” Frisco resident Corkie Ramey said. “I think the remembrance will slowly die, but I think there will be more terrorist attacks, and perhaps that will help continue the feeling of patriotism.”
Are the changes permanent?
Whether the changes people made had a lasting effect or not is still up for debate. Those such as Evankovich have altered their attitudes and behaviors, but some believe, in general, people’s positive actions have faded.
“Overall, the attitude right around that time changed a lot, but they’re kind of back to the way they were,” said Jonathan Comyn, a Summit Cove resident and technician with the Sheriff’s Office. However, he noted the community showed its support at Agape Outpost’s memorial service Sunday. He also said he handles his job differently, mainly in the area of awareness of the environment and possible danger.
Those who remain unchanged
A handful of people feel relatively unaffected by the attacks, a few because they never felt patriotic to begin with, and others because they have always been spiritual, patriotic or both.
“It didn’t affect me,” Breckenridge resident Rachael Butts said. “I can’t believe it took that to bring people together. I have no sense of unity for this country. I’m not a nationalist for sure. (I’m not patriotic because) we’re still corrupt.”
“I’ve always been patriotic and spiritual,” Frisco resident Dan Mehl said. “It’s just realizing we could go at any minute.”
“I don’t know that it affected me. It really didn’t,” Frisco resident Tom Guyer said. “We could go at any minute, so am I ready? I am ready. I’m totally at peace with it, as far as what’s happening in the world.”
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