Updated: September 11, 2011 at 12:00 am
Sept. 11, 2011 began with a beautiful sunrise and clear, blue skies over Colorado -- just as it did 10 years ago. Events to mark the decade since the attacks were held across the region Sunday. Here is a sampling of several of the events.
America the Beautiful Park, 8 a.m.
On any other Sunday, Katie and Riley Cornelio, ages 9 and 11, would be sleeping in. On this day, they were snuggled up to their mom, Stephanie Cornelio, in the morning chill as dignitaries began to assemble for the "Colorado Springs Remembers" commemoration.
A decade ago, the family was living on Long Island, N.Y. Stephanie Cornelio's husband, a public-affairs officer in the Army, was quickly swept up into the massive military mobilization that followed the attacks. Riley was not even 2, and Katie had not yet arrived. But on Sunday, the two children had a sense of the day's magnitude.
"The scariest part about the attack was we thought we were in peace," Katie said. "We didn't understand it. We thought we were in peace." Sunday's ceremony, she said, was meant "to remember all the people that died and who saved us."
Riley put his thoughts together carefully. "It's important to be here," he said, seeming to consider each word, "to come and remember 9/11 and the people who served so I could live to this day."
The 1,000 chairs set out in the park were nearly full, and hundreds more people lounged on the surrounding lawn and promenade as former Gov. Bill Ritter faced the rising sun and directed the hour-long ceremony. A giant American flag hung over the scene, held aloft by ladder trucks from the Fountain and Colorado Springs fire departments. Boy Scouts handed out red, white and blue ribbons. A scrap of the girders from within the World Trade Center towers was on display, under guard.
Gen. Charles Jacoby, commander of the North American Aerospace Command and Northern Command, gave the keynote. Remembering the "wonderful unity of spirit" that rose out of 9/11 smoke and ashes, he told the crowd "we join again today across this great land, as one."
Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach and Colorado Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia shared remarks, in-between songs sung by Cheyenne Mountain High School chorales. But the crowd saved its most enthusastic reponses for Holmes Middle School student Tegan Chambon and Widefield High School student Ashley Reed, who read their prize-winning essays on the impressions 9/11 has had on their lives. You can read Chambon's essay here. You can read Ashley's essay here.
The event concluded with two verses of "America the Beautiful," which was inspired by Pikes Peak. The mountain stood in bright sunlight over the scene, its crown capped by a slight gray shroud of clouds.
Academy Boulevard and Galley Road, 9:30 a.m.
As he has every Sept. 11 for the past 10 years, Criss Seal took up his position at the intersection at 6 a.m., waving a large American flag. He plans, as always, to be there until 6 p.m.
He and his family used to live in a nearby apartment complex. On Sept. 11, 2001, Seal said the numbness of the hours following the attacks prompted him into action.
"There's something I've got to do to show my patriotism," he said he told himself. The corner of Academy and Galley, one of the busiest in the city, was a handy place to do it.
"I thought I'd be here an hour," he said of that day 10 years ago. "I did five."
On Sunday, a half-dozen others took up positions at each corner of the intersection. More would come and go through the day, Seal said.
After 10 years, he said, local schoolkids have grown up to regard him as an expected part of the landscape.
" 'You're the 9/11 flag guy,' " is the typical greeting, he said.
His 9/11 vigil is not a political statement, Seal says. It's a simple expression of love of America.
"I'm not for the war, I'm not against the war," he said, "but I'm for the men and women who fight for us."
Memorial Park, 1 p.m.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher D. Miller could taste the dust from the rubble of the World Trade Center as he walked to his home in New York City.
“Even then, all of us knew that would be a defining moment in our lives,” he said.
On Sunday, Miller stood at a lectern under a tree at Memorial Park in Colorado Springs, giving the main address for the re-dedication of the Freedom Memorial in honor of the armed forces who have fallen and served on the war on terrorism.
The memorial was dedicated on the fifth anniversary of the terror attacks, and on Sunday, about 200 people were at the re-dedication ceremony for the 10th anniversary. Veterans holding up American flags along the walkways near the memorial stood tall and perfectly still during the hour-long solemn ceremony. The ceremony recognized the people in attendance from each branch of the armed services, including soldiers who have been deployed in the fight against terrorism as many as four times.
“Those brave warriors and their fallen comrades and their families we honor,” said Bob Holmes, president of the Rotary Club of Colorado Springs. “Even though some think it no longer touches them, our war is not over.”
The ceremony concluded when Melissa Givens, whose husband Pfc. Jesse Givens died in the war and Olebria Lassien, whose son, Master Sgt. Harold Green also died, placed a wreath next to the memorial.
“Freedom from terror does have a price and many have paid it,” Miller said. “Today, let us re-dedicate our hearts to stay the course in their honor.”
Shove Chapel, Colorado College, 2 p.m.
There’s a glitter coming from a small room on the southeast side of Shove Chapel on the Colorado College campus.
Underneath an ornate stained glass window in the dimly lit building was a simple table with dozens of burning candles on top. Underneath the candles is a sign that says “We Remember.”
The chapel was absolutely quiet inside, with only the noises from outside occasionally drifting in.
People were invited to come to the chapel to light a candle in remembrance of the terror attacks and many had wandered in through the day, with some candles already almost gone and others just beginning to burn.
World Arena, 4 p.m.
Rock and country music flowed out of the World Arena as about 2,000 people waved small American flags.
The event featured songs written by eight veterans, who partnered with three singer-songwriters during a retreat in Vail, where the vets shared their experiences and the songwriters put them to music. The song “Hell on My Heart” is about how one woman soldier felt while her husband was at war. “Predator Road,” a punchy rock song, told of soldiers trying to pump themselves up before going down a dangerous road in Baghdad.
When the soldiers shared their stories behind the songs, the tears flowed freely throughout the arena.
The people who were there felt a strong connection and many said they came to make sure they never forgot what happened.
Linda and Luis Cowley were there to remember the day that shook their lives. The couple, both retired from the Army, watched the events that day with stunned anger.
“It wasn’t just the people of New York they were attacking. It was the entire U S of A," Linda Cowley said. “It was a personal strike against all of us.”
Irene Warner couldn’t help but feel sorry for all of the families who were hurting. Her own son is a firefighter.
“All you can do is you call your kids and you want to hold them,” she said.
Colorado College, 5:30 p.m.
A banquet room at Colorado College is filled with almost 100 people who chat excitedly to each other while eating Middle Eastern food.
Here there are Muslims, Christians, Jews all enjoying each other’s company. The dinner is the capstone of a four-part event designed to build bridges between faiths and help bring peace, said Steve Saint, executive director of the Pikes Peak Peace and Justice Commission.
“Locally we’re saying peace is possible,” he said. “We’re doing it right here.”
Kamel Elwazeir said he was proud to be there and represent Islam. When the terrorists hijacked those planes, they also hijacked his faith, he said.
“We’re here in America to try to draw the real picture of Islam and all of a sudden, 15 to 20 people who hate America damaged what we were trying to do.”
Through these events, he’s met several people and learned a lot, he said. He just wishes conversations like these could happen everywhere.
“Peace is only achieved if we sit down and talk to each other about it,” he said.
First United Methodist Church, 7 p.m.
As the sun set behind the mountains, the sanctuary at First United Methodist Church downtown was filled with more than 60 voices of a choir singing Mass in G, by Franz Schubert.
The powerful Latin songs reverberated off of the walls and at times seemed to shake the room.
Rev. Leanne Hadley told the 150-plus people in the audience that the service was meant to be peaceful and reflective. She suggested that everyone listen in the quiet as the choir performed. She said she hoped to get that same peacefulness herself.
“Today, this day was harder for me than I had anticipated,” she said.
Jan and Chuck Baggs were also hoping for some time of reflection on Sunday night. That day 10 years ago was hectic and chaotic. Sitting in the church, and listening to the beautiful music, was a way to calm down all of those memories, Jan Baggs said.
“This was a different type of day,” she said. “Being there was inspiring and put everything at peace.”