Local 9/11 Ceremony Pays Tribute to Those Who Died During Horrific Terrorist Attacks

Memorial Attendees Urged to Rekindle Sense of Unity that Once Dominated America

Rick Langenberg

Remember where you were on 9/11 and remember the great sacrifices that took place; but more importantly, remember how united we were on Sept. 12, when people of all races, political parties and economic classes came together in a rare fashion.

Let’s rekindle that sense of unity.

This was a prime message that dominated the 22nd commemorative 9/11 memorial ceremony last week in  Woodland  Park’s Lions Park, featuring leaders from a variety of agencies and area veteran groups, and many community figures.  Despite a cloudy, rainy and cold morning (on Sept. 11, 2023), the memorial attracted a large crowd, as a hefty group of somber attendees didn’t appear bothered in the slightest by the early fall frigid temperatures and were ready to honor the 9/11 victims and salute the flag with the same enthusiastic level of patriotic vigor.

Like many  locales in the Pikes Peak region, Woodland Park hosted its annual ceremony last week honoring nearly 3,0000 civilian victims and first-responders, following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington D.C. and a subsequent plane crash in a field in Pennsylvania.

In an area that abounds in military traditions and patriotism, this memorial, originally started by former Woodland Park Administrator David Buttery, has become one of the more emotional ceremonies of the year.

This year, the theme of trying to rekindle the spirit of 9/11, when Americans put aside their political differences and often clashing views, emerged as the keynote message.

“We came together as a country,” said Teller County Commissioner Dan Williams, the event’s keynote speaker.  Besides his role as commissioner, Williams also served as combat veteran in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is strongly involved with local veteran organizations. “On Sept. 12, (one day after the attack, when President George W. Bush addressed the nation), we were united.”

This same message  was echoed by other speakers.

Williams, as he has done  in past  9/11 ceremonies, unveiled historic details of the horrific terrorist tragedy, the first attack on our nation’s soil in decades. Within a mere 102-minute time span on a beautiful fall morning in the East Coast on Sept. 11, 2001, Williams noted that a group of Islamic terrorists succeeded in hijacking four planes  and crashing them into the Twin Towers at the hub of New City’s financial district,  which led to the entire collapse of these mega structures, along with the Pentagon, in Washington D.C. and a field in Pennsylvania.

The toll of human lives, just with the Pentagon and Twin Towers assaults alone exceeded the 2,000 number, not to mention the loss of hundreds of first-responders and people who are still being discovered as fatal victims. Forty three additional people in New York City were recently added to the list of fatalities, which now has nearly hit the 3,000  number, according to Williams.

On a financial level, he stated that the tragedy was devastating, costing hundreds of billions of dollars, an event the nation still has not fully recovered from.

“Those are not political statements. Those are costs. It changed our lives,” said the commissioner.

Williams admitted that life for everyday Americans was vastly different following the 9/11 attacks, a point he emphasized in a recent editorial, printed in TMJ News.

Bringing Back Needed Unity

But despite this tragedy, Williams cited the unity that developed following the attacks as unprecedented. And largely because of efforts taken by first-responders and military leaders, American has been insulated from a similar assault, based on many accounts.

This was the theme emphasized by a score of local leaders, including Woodland Park Police Chief Chris Deisler and Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell and Woodland Park Mayor Pro Tem Kellie Case. “Be the country we were on Sept. 12 (2001),” stressed Case, who urged community leaders and residents to do what they can to rid the area of divisions.

Mikesell add that the country was never more united. “Citizens became first-responders,” said the sheriff. More notably, he said a record number of people enlisted in the military and joined fire department and law enforcement agencies, statistics that are a far cry from current realities.

In fact, the amazing post-9/11 response was credited by Mikesell and other law enforcement leaders from protecting the country from encountering another international terrorist attack.

The most emotional plea came from Annie Durham, the CTE coordinator of the Cripple Creek/Victor School District, who is also running for mayor  in Cripple Creek this November.

Durham urged the ceremony participants to take action, such as reaching out to someone who is hurting or suffering from isolation, and extend kindness to strangers. She said this is a central part of the 9/11 spirit.

The ceremony was donned with a slew of flag-raising and huge patriotism gestures, with a table, sponsored by the American Legion, telling the whole story, “Freedom is not Free.”

And in one of the most touching ceremonies, a number of residents, who lost loves ones or those they  had connections with during  the 9/11 attacks, came forward in a circle. Many attendees were shocked by the number of local residents, who have direct ties to the 9/11 terrorist assault.