Summit’s first responders recall 9/11
summit daily news
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Summit County Sheriff John Minor – then an officer for the Silverthorne Police Department – sat in a leadership class in Denver. Pagers and cell phones started going off, the class stopped and the television was flipped on. The instructor, a retired lieutenant from the New York City Police Department, had tears streaming down his face. The last precinct he had worked for covered the World Trade Center complex.
“I remember the images of all the people trapped on the upper floors and the images and the faces of those first responders running into the buildings,” Minor said. “It was a pretty emotional day.”
The students and teacher didn’t do anything for the rest of the day. They watched what was going on and called their home agencies. All law enforcement was put on alert, and any off-duty cops were told to stay close to home.
Watching the buildings collapse and realizing many of the citizens and first responders didn’t make it out, Minor felt a mix of emotions. “It was just one wave of sadness followed by another wave of anger.”
Those feelings reoccur to this day.
“The days after, I remember just looking up into the sky and realizing there were no planes flying,” he said. “The contrails from the aircraft that you often see, they weren’t there. There was no noise from high-flying aircraft. It was an eerie feeling.”
The day put all first responders on edge, Minor said. “It was like, what’s next?”
Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue chief Dave Parmley was at home that morning, getting ready to go into work.
“I saw it unfold on various news networks with real disbelief,” he said. “My heart just sank because I knew in all likelihood there was a large number of firefighters from FDNY that were responding.”
He got to work shortly after the first tower was hit, and continued to monitor the situation alongside his co-workers.
“It looked just to be of an unbelievable magnitude. Thinking about a fully loaded passenger plane going in… it was going to be a horrific situation,” Parmley said.
The mood in the office was very tempered, very quiet and very subdued. Everyone was concerned about the unfolding events in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon. The office was put onto alert.
“Each and every one of them, their actions were heroic,” Parmley said of the 9/11 responders.
Red White and Blue Fire District fire chief Lori Miller was a captain with the City of Boulder Fire Department. She was actually in Summit County on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, getting ready to cut nordic trails. She turned on the television after the first plane hit.
“I remember seeing it and thinking it was a movie,” she said. “And then realized it was a live event.”
When the first tower came down Miller remembers thinking the building had to have been wired for demolition. She knew it was a terrorist attack, but didn’t know it was the result of a plane. Then the second plane hit.
“It was unreal,” she said. “Then I realized all the FDNY guys were inside. And knowing they had set command up in the lobby, because that’s standard practice for command to be set up in the lobby of a high rise. As the enormity of the event unfolded… then you just go numb.”
Ten years later, Miller’s emotions concerning the day are still “very raw.” The event didn’t make her want to quit her job, instead, it made her even more proud.
Director of Summit County Ambulance Service Marc Burdick was in California at the time, where he worked for Santa Barbara County Public Health-Emergency Medical Services. He was at home that morning, and saw the attacks unfold on the television.
“It was just a very sad day,” he said. “I was in awe and disbelief.”
He was thinking of his fellow emergency responders on the East Coast, and the chaos they were dealing with. It was hard being so far away, and not being able to help.
“We’re the people that when everybody’s running around, we’re trying to take care of everybody,” he said. “We all felt like we wanted to do something immediately… we feel like we lost family.”
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