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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of  September 19 - 25, 2001


Courage and 
sacrifice on East Coast 
tug our hearts

"To see the pictures on the television, and then to stand at the base of the site with asbestos in your eyes and debris dust down your throat, even with a mask, is unbelievable."

Express Staff Writer

It is nearly too much to grasp. Daily we are told stories—miraculous, unspeakable, sad and heartbreaking—about survivors and close calls, and losses..

In fact, many residents and visitors to the Wood River Valley have connections to those touched by and traumatized by the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

A local friend, who was in the Army, told of her best friend, a Lt. Colonel stationed at the Pentagon.

Her office was in the area that had recently been remodeled. At the time the plane crashed into that exact space, she was just a corridor away counting money that had been gathered for a "Hail & Farewell" party for a fellow officer. She fled the smoke and raging fire, leaving the money on her desk.

As a transportation officer, part of her job is mortuary services—which means that right now she is not just identifying and labeling bodies, but is notifying families and making arrangements for funerals. While the country was still in shock as events unfolded Sept. 11, a man in Ketchum’s Toy Store generously and anonymously donated $5,000 to a local Girl Scout troop wholly precipitated by one man’s need to do something. The troop plans to use the money to help other children.

"We were trying to find some brightness in the day," said troop leader Betsy Stoll, who had been chatting with the man in the store. "He was a complete stranger, but we want to show the kids how one person can make a difference."

Another local woman, on her way to New York, was stranded in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, where she spent the first night in a sports stadium with approximately 15,000 other stranded fliers.

It’s even—not surprisingly—affecting plans for events here in the valley. The CeLABration Auction has been postponed until December. And several weddings were being held with just a fraction of the guests and family members present.

One bride, whose wedding was last Saturday, had no bridesmaids, cousins, aunts, uncles or college friends. They are all in Boston or in NYC and couldn’t get flights out.

"It’s a big gap missing from my life. These are very important people to us, but we’ve been planning this for ten months and believe that this is the day we are supposed to get married," she said last week.

Back on the East Coast, Nicole Blackman, a New Yorker and apparently a person of large heart penned the following e-mail: "The bodies are going on the boats out. Brooks Brothers downtown has now also been turned into a morgue.

"Next week relief workers will still need supplies and something to eat. Perhaps a clean pair of socks may not sound like much, but will be so appreciated by someone doing the hardest work of their lives."

Blackman adds, "If you know anyone who lives in the 'hood between 14th street and the WTC¾ they’re still being told to stay in their homes … ."

Another friend, Sissy Biggers, who lives in Connecticut and works in the city, was on her way to meetings the morning of the attacks before being turned back at the 125th Street railroad station. She writes:

"I think it is important to understand how far reaching this massacre is into the Tri-state area. This is not a 5-mile radius, it’s a whole commuter culture. One friend, Holly Bannister, was on duty at Bellevue Emergency. She said that teams of doctors waited for truck loads of injured that never arrived."

Another friend said that his colleagues at AON, (a large risk management firm) had 18 minutes to get out of the second tower after the first strike. The sense is that any one above 82 or 92 in the first tower was doomed.

My friend added that his company first estimated several hundreds of 1,100 employees perished. However, they have since been able to account for many of their staff, although approximately 200 are still missing.

Thousands of residents of the Battery Park apartments have yet to return to their apartments, where presumably hundreds of dogs and cats wait to be fed, though pet food is one of the supplies that has been over donated and sits unused at the many depot spots for donations.

"Though we live 50 miles from the epicenter," Biggers adds, "the gray plume of smoke stretched across Long Island Sound where, on an especially clear day like the morning of September 11th, one could pick out the sparkling towers, peeking over the horizon. After the collapse, the white clouds bleached into the skyline.

Now the National Guard has taken over the local beach of Sherwood Island (in Westport Conn.), where EMT vehicles are ready, if need be, to be loaded aboard a vehicle transport anchored just off shore."

In a later e-mail on Friday, Blackman, relates that at Ground Zero and along the West Side Highway canteens are set up. At the site itself, on Chambers Street, there are masses of volunteers and immense collections of food, water, protective masks, socks, power bars, and Gatorade.

Blackman took sandwiches on her own to St. Vincent’s but they didn’t want them. Instead, they were directed to take them down a block to Fiddlesticks, a pub.

"There, we were told to put them all in a walk-in cooler in the basement, which we did. The place was packed with sandwiches. Later, every employee there left their shift to help us load a van. They asked me how else they could help, where to go, what else we needed.

"If you are ever in the area, I urge you to walk over to Fiddlesticks, ask for the manager and thank them profusely. They're Gods.

"I walked across Christopher Street to the West Side Highway and was stunned to see so many people clapping, waving flags and cheering the relief and emergency workers as they drove to and from the site.

"Exhausted and covered in debris, they smiled and tooted their horns and flashed their lights at us. Folks, it sounds like something small, but to see how much everyone appreciated the support—you have no idea. "

Blackman says that once they were at the canteen at the West Side Highway and Charlton, they helped pass out food water and masks to relief workers."

Blackman then rode in a van with a variety of volunteers, doctors needing a ride, a state trooper who jumped in to help us get through blockades.

"With perfect strangers (apt description!) we loaded food, equipment, and supplies all over the city, all night.

"I met twenty of the most extraordinary people I've ever met …

"Everyone made a daisy chain and loaded the van in minutes, thrilled to know their donations were going straight to the relief workers who most needed them. All night, we shuttled things all over the city from the Armory to the WTC site directly to the West Side Highway replenishing resources…

"To see the pictures on the television, and then to stand at the base of the site with asbestos in your eyes and debris dust down your throat, even with a mask, is unbelievable. The rubble is still burning. Buildings are still falling …

"We kept working till 1 a.m., then had to walk for an hour across town to shake it all off. I am still shaking. Cut my hands, broke my nails, bruises all over. Not sure if I can sleep tonight after what I saw. Overwhelmed. Nauseous. The need is immense, the workers are exhausted."

Blackman advises: "Whatever you're doing to help, keep doing it. They will need supplies for weeks and months to come and every damn Powerbar is appreciated like a Christmas gift to an orphan."

On Sunday, New York again adjusted its count of those killed or missing, to 5,007 people. Among the 190 confirmed dead were 37 firefighters, police officers and paramedics. The death toll in the attack on the Pentagon stood at 188.

New York is not an easy place to live in the best of times. It’s large and unweilding, and people who don’t know the city are overwhelmed by its pace. It’s important to realize that New Yorkers have a singular purpose—expediency. In this vein one of the e-mails that I have received came from a friend here in the valley. He heard that Governor Pataki was at one of the hospitals where injured rescue workers had been taken.

"He was going around comforting people and stopped by the bed of an injured firefighter to express his thanks for the dangerous task he was undertaking. After listening to the governor, the firefighter said—in thick Brooklyn accent—What did you expect? I'm a New Yorker.

"Having lived all my life out west," he continues, "I know that there tends to be an attitude of dismissal of all things Eastern and metropolitan. There is a tendency to think of New Yorkers as harsh and unfriendly.

"The response of the people out there certainly counters that myth and shows everyone that beneath the brash exterior of New Yorkers is a kind and caring heart.

"And, for Westerners I think the events triggered a sense of connection with all people and all parts of our diverse country. It didn't just happen to some far off location, it happened to my New York."

For former New Yorkers, like myself—who will be a New Yorker, always, at heart—it makes me want to be there to commiserate and to be a witness and to help clean up my home town—a town where 8 million people used to live.

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.