The 9/11 Shrine (Aspen Mountain)

The 9/11 Shrine includes a large carved wooden sign that shows the New York City skyline along with the Twin Towers.  It remembers those who died in the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001.  Across the top of the sign, in large print, it says “In Remembrance of Those….” and there are also red roses carved on it.  At the bottom it says, “May we know peace.”  Behind it are some other items, including a sign pertaining to the New York Fire Department (“Always Honored—Never Forgotten”) and also a thank-you sign to the Aspen Skiing Corporation from Lt. Kenneth Christiansen (aka "Whitey"), Lt. Andy Olsen, Lt. Gary Rishell, and firefighter Steve Fenley (aka "Doc") of Ladder Company 5 FDNY.  For a letter from Aspen Fire Chief Darryl Grob about the Aspen visit of these four men in February of 2002, see:  http://www.aspentimes.com/article/20020306/LETTER/203050005, Aspen Times March 6, 2002, "Well-fed firefighters" (this article is quoted in the section below following the photos).  The shrine also contains a log cut-out sign that says “R.I.P Brothers” with a “5” on it.  Tied to another tree is a T-shirt from the 2001 New York City Marathon.  Chuck DiMartino of the Kansas City Fire Department contributed a KCFD T-Shirt in February 2007, and then another one in January 2010.  There is a "List of Heroes" posted on a tree which lists the names of 343 FDNY fire fighters who died on 9/11.  There is also a touching remembrance here of one Thomas J. Foley, a fireman who died on 9/11 at age 32.  For more on him, see this site:  http://firefighterthomasjfoley.com/index.htm.  There is a photo of Foley in the shrine, and also a statement of the "Fireman's Prayer" which is as follows:

When I am called to duty, God,
Wherever flames may rage,
Give me the strength to save some life
Whatever be it's age.
Help me embrace a little child
Before it's too late,
Or save an older person
The horror of that fate.
Enable me to be alert and hear the weakest shout
And quickly and effectively
Put the fire out.
I want to fill my calling and
To give the best in me,
To guard my every neighbor and
Protect his property.
And if according to Your will,
I have to lose my life,
Please bless with your protecting hand
My children and wife.
Author Unknown


This shrine used to be completely visible from the ski run without having to go back into the trees to see it.  But between the 2015-16 and 2016-17 ski seasons the large 9/11 wooden board was moved up the hill and into the trees.  

In July 2010 Rishell and Christiansen returned to Aspen along with fellow New York firefighters Warren Forsythe, John (Big Dog) Graziano, Paul Giedel, and Eddie Bergen.  On July 4 they dedicated a 9/11 sculpture in front of the Aspen Fire Department building at 420 East Hopkins Avenue in Aspen.  See the two newspaper articles below ("Trade Center Rubble Sculpture Stops in Vail, Heads to Aspen" and "From New York With Love") for more information on the story of this sculpture and dedication.  Both of these articles are quoted below.  Also shown below towards the end of this page are 15 photos of this sculpture, taken in July 2010.
  
This May 3, 2011 article from the Aspen Times mentions the 9/11 Shrine: http://www.aspentimes.com/article/20110503/NEWS/110509949/1077&ParentProfile=1058
                                                                                                                                                                                          

Sometime after May 2011 four items were put up in the shrine noting the death of Osama Bin Laden; scroll down for more information on this and photos.

See this article in the Snowmass Sun newspaper (December 21, 2011) about the 9/11 Shrine: http://www.aspentimes.com/article/20111220/NEWS/111229999, "The 9/11 Shrine is one of few visible on the mountain," by David Wood.  (This article is set out in full at the bottom of this page.)

The Aspen Chamber lists this Shrine in its March 10, 2016 article as a "must-see" Shrine.   http://www.aspenchamber.org/blog/7-must-see-shrines-aspen-mountain  "7 Must-See Shrines on Aspen Mountain."

The 9/11 Shrine on Aspen Mountain is mentioned in a September 11, 2016 Aspen Times article by Lauren Glendenning.  Here is a quote from the article:  "Balentine introduced an unexpected guest, New York firefighter Ed Mahoney, who told the crowd of his plans to ski to what he called the 'comforting' 9/11 shrine on Aspen Mountain and add several plaques to it."  Here is the link to the article:  http://www.aspentimes.com/news/regional/23879124-113/15-years-after-911-a-message-of-reflection   To see photos of these plaques, see this Facebook photo album (you do not need a Facebook account in order to view the album):  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.382828038455833.87793.100001859201674&type=1&l=d235a16b3e 

The 9/11 Shrine is located on Aspen Mountain. Photos of it are below.  And to see even more photos of this Shrine, see this Facebook photo album (you do not need to have a Facebook account in order to view the album):  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.382828038455833.87793.100001859201674&type=1&l=d235a16b3e 

If you have any photos of or information about this item that you would like to share for use on this page, please send to the author at AspenShrines@aol.com

This shrine is covered in the book, "Sanctuaries in the Snow--The Shrines and Memorials of Aspen/Snowmass." The book may be purchased on this page on this site: http://www.aspensnowmassshrines.com/index.php?The-Book

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The photos in this photo section were taken between 2006 and 2010.

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Sometime after May 2011 four items were put up in the shrine noting the death of Osama Bin Laden:  1.  A copy of the front page of the May 2, 2011 Washington Post.  2.  A copy of the front page of the May 2, 2011 New York Times.  3.  A copy of the front page of the May 2, 2011 New York Daily News ("ROT IN HELL!").  4.  A copy of the cover of the May 20, 2011 TIME magazine.  See photos in the photo section immediately below.

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The photos in the section immediately below were taken in January 2012.  Someone repaired the large wooden sign (which was starting to fall apart) and also added the photos shown here.  The top two boards were added to the wooden sign and some photos were thumb-tacked to them.  Click on imgages to enlarge.

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The photos in this section below were taken in 2013.

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This letter appeared in the Aspen Times newspaper on March 6, 2002:

Well-fed firefighters

During the week of Feb. 23 through March 2 the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department and the community of Aspen played host to four firefighters from the city of New York: Lt. Kenneth Christiansen (decorated for valor), Lt. Andy Olsen, Lt. Gary Rishell, and firefighter Steve Fenley (decorated with FDNY's highest award for personal valor in 2000).

A few months ago, these esteemed visitors (all avid skiers back East) had contacted my office for advice about a "dream" ski vacation they had in mind, to pursue a little decompression from the rigors of their ongoing experiences in New York. I think we exceeded their expectations by several orders of magnitude.

On their behalf, and on behalf of the Aspen Fire Protection District, our thanks to:

Pam Cunningham and the staff at Aspen Alps for their accommodations, humor and sincere desire to help.

John Norton and the Aspen Skiing Co. for free six-day tickets (John, they skied every day and couldn't say enough about the mountains and the snow).

Leslie Shacklette and Bill Tomcich of Stay Aspen-Snowmass for free airfare.

Tom Anderson and Pomeroy Sports for free equipment demos and expert advice.

"John" and City Market for stocking their refrigerators (these were big boys and needed their nutrition).

Brian O'Neil and the Elks for complimentary access.

Peggy Trott and the Aspen Club Lodge for complimentary access.

Blair Elliott and the Steak Pit for opening their eyes to Western beef.

Jack Simmons and the Holland House for breakfasts.

Kevin O'Donnell and Matsuhisa-Aspen for their complimentary goodbye dinner (and significant bar tab, quite wonderful).

All their new friends around town who welcomed them so enthusiastically.

Bill, Jack, Wabs, Willard, Mike, Mark, Jan, Blair, and the rest of the AVFD who took our new friends to heart and made their stay here extraordinary.

Anyone I missed.

We can all take pride in knowing that we have made new friends, and helped.

Darryl Grob

Aspen Fire Chief
 

 

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See the article "Trade Center rubble sculpture stops in Vail, heads to Aspen" by Sarah Mausolf, Vail correspondent, which appeared in the Aspen Times newspaper on July 1, 2010, quoted here (http://www.aspentimes.com/article/20100701/NEWS/100639971):
 
New York City firefighters, from left, John Graziano, Ken Christiansen, Gary Rishell and Warren Forsyth stand around a sculpture made from a piece of steel salvaged from the World Trade Center's north tower on Wednesday in Vail. The firefighters were bringing the sculpture to Aspen.  Dominique Taylor/Vail Daily
 
VAIL, Colo. — Ken Christiansen turns over his wrist, revealing a tattoo that reads “343.” He's sitting outside the Lifthouse Condominiums in Lionshead, recounting Sept. 11, 2001.

“It was total devastation,” the New York City firefighter recalled.

Christiansen considers himself blessed to have survived the terrorist attack. Many of his colleagues did not; 343 firefighters gave their lives on Sept. 11.

The number “343” also appears on a piece of steel that is temporarily on display in Vail's Lionshead while en route to Aspen. The 700-pound piece of steel once belonged to the north World Trade Tower, the first tower hit.

Leafing through photos of rubble and people jumping from the towers, fellow New York City firefighter Warren Forsyth said he will never forget Sept. 11.

Forsyth, Christiansen and the other firefighters on the trip, Gary Rishell and John Graziano, spent six months digging through the rubble trying to find victims. They will always remember Sept. 11, and they hope the sculpture they are bringing to Aspen will help the country remember, as well.

Several months after the terrorist attacks, Aspen hosted various firefighters for ski vacations. The New York City firefighters struck up a friendship with their Aspen counterparts, and in recent months, they arranged to deliver a piece of the World Trade Towers to town.

The visiting firefighters all responded to the terrorist attacks. Vivid memories remain from the experience.

“A lot of people have a tendency to forget 9/11,” Forsyth said. “I lost 22 friends that day.”

The New York City firefighters obtained permission to take a piece of steel from Randall's Island, one of many locations where the city is storing rubble from the attacks. They brought the former I-beam to a New Jersey welder, who cut a likeness of the Trade Towers into the steel. The design features solid steel stripes where the planes hit each tower.

smausolf@vaildaily.com
 
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Also see the article "From New York, with love" by Carolyn Sackariason, Aspen Daily News, Sunday, July 4, 2010 (http://www.aspendailynews.com/section/home/141316), quoted here:
 
Aspen’s generosity inspires NYC firefighters to bring a piece of the World Trade Center here, solidifying a lasting relationship and a permanent display of gratitude

The American ideals of freedom, bravery and sacrifice have been etched permanently in one simple piece of steel taken from the north tower of the World Trade Center and placed in front of the downtown Aspen fire barn.

The unveiling of the sculpture will occur today during the Aspen Fire Protection District’s Fourth of July block party and official dedication to the new facility, the timing of which is a symbolic nod to Independence Day and the 343 firefighters who perished on 9-11.

The over 6-foot-tall steel piece, which still has the tower’s concrete on it, was driven here by six New York City firefighters last week as a thank you to the community for making their post 9-11 trauma more manageable.

In the weeks following the tragedies of 9-11, Aspen Fire, the Aspen Alps, the Aspen Skiing Co., City Market, local restaurants and businesses throughout the community came together and provided four New York firefighters with a skiing vacation here completely free of charge, as a gesture of rehabilitation.

Ken Christiansen (aka Whitey), Steve Fenley (Doc), Gary Rishell and Andy Olson visited Aspen in February 2002. Their friendship with the Aspen community has continued to the present day.

“We all had severe problems with depression and things were adding up,” said Christiansen, adding his wife suggested that he take a vacation after watching the Twin Towers fall. Christiansen’s brother had been married in Aspen and suggested he come here for a respite in a resort community that puts an emphasis on feeding the mind, body and spirit.

Christiansen said he Googled Aspen and read a classified ad in the local newspaper that sought volunteer firefighters. He contacted fire chief Darryl Grob for some insight on the resort, like where to stay and other details. Grob responded by arranging an all-expenses paid, week-long stay here.

“It immediately became apparent that there were a lot of people under extreme distress,” Grob said. “These are a great group of guys and this is an extraordinary token to the community.”

Rishell said he couldn’t believe that a community thousands of miles away would make such a gesture.

“We were speechless and thought it was pretty awesome since we had never been past Killington, Vermont,” Rishell said, adding flying into Aspen over the Rocky Mountains is an experience he’ll never forget.

Christiansen said he was only seeking insight from a local Aspenite and never dreamed Grob would have done what he did.

“It was a good shock,” Christiansen said of the thoughtful, generous gesture.

While the gesture will always be remembered, the actual vacation might have a few blurry spots for the firefighters. 

“It was a good time, we left here dazed and confused,” Christiansen joked. “Since then, we’ve been here every year.”
A vision becomes reality

Christiansen came to Aspen with his wife during a fall foliage ride when the fire barn was under construction. As he waited for his wife, who was shopping inside the thrift shop, Christiansen looked at the front of the unfinished building and the planned museum, then saw a vision.


 Dustin Franz/Aspen Daily News

A piece of steel from the World Trade Center sits outside the downton fire barn and was donated by a group of firefighters from New York City.

“I thought it would be nice to get a piece of World Trade Center steel and we chose the city of Aspen because they’ve been so good to us,” Christiansen said. “Since 2002, our lives have changed because of the people we’ve met in Colorado.”

It’s rare to still be able to acquire a piece of steel from the toppled Twin Towers but Christiansen and his comrades were able to convince the New York Fire Commissioner to release one.

Through a group effort, the now retired firefighters had the steel cut to read on the top “FDNY” “911-01,” and on the bottom, “343” to reflect the number of men and women who died in the line of duty that day.

Lines that shape the towers were cut into the steel and are separated at the very places where the planes hit. The base is shaped as a Maltese cross — the firefighter’s badge of honor, signifying that he works in courage — a ladder rung away from death.

“We wanted to do it right,” Christiansen said. “We spent time on it and we made it so it would stay here forever.

“It’s kind of in its natural state.”

During an emotional yet low-key moment with a few onlookers taking pictures, the sculpture was erected by Aspen and New York firefighters in front of the fire barn Friday afternoon.

“It’s a very intense moment that will be around for a long time,” Grob said, adding he was “awe struck” when he learned what Christiansen had arranged. “It’s a very emotional experience for me personally.”

Curious passersby stopped to watch the work being done Friday, wondering out loud what the connection was between New York and Aspen.

Once they learned, they were impressed.

“That’s really cool,” said Aspen resident Frank Lawrence, who noted that he and his wife, Pam, are close friends with a family in New York who lost a firefighter on 9-11. “It’s tremendous ... it will be there forever.”

Rishell and Christiansen are joined this holiday weekend in Aspen with fellow New York firefighters Warren Forsythe, John Graziano (Big Dog), Paul Giedel and Eddie Bergen, who also traveled here to be part of the special tribute.

They drove across the country last week and arrived Friday afternoon. They immediately went to work putting their piece of gratitude in its final resting place, located at the entrance to the fire barn’s museum.

“I’ve been here two hours and all I’ve done is work ... I thought this was a fun town,” Graziano laughed.

The group of firefighters, all from Stanton Island, and whose families are celebrating Fourth of July with them here, also are Harley Davidson riders. They said they plan to celebrate Aspen style and join the hundreds of other Harley riders in the parade today.

Kidding aside, Graziano said the trip means a lot to him. He admired the steel sculpture and then recalled the images etched in his mind of the hundreds of pieces twisted and mangled at the Twin Towers site.

“We saw beams like that — 30, 40 feet long just twisted like pieces of paper,” he said. “It affected us all big time.”

Graziano said he lost seven firefighters in his ladder company and only one was recovered.

“Out of the 343, I probably knew 100 of them,” he said.

 Christiansen said he has a deep-seated love for the Aspen community and is thankful for its generosity.

“The town of Aspen has been great,” he said. “It’s truly a blessing to be here.”

 





 

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In July 2010 the author took 15 photos of this 9/11 sculpture in front of the Fire Department building in Aspen, Colorado and which was dedicated on July 4, 2010.  These 15 photos are shown below.

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The three photos of the Aspen Fire Department shown below were taken in September 2011 on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

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Below is the article that David Wood wrote for the Snowmass Sun newspaper.  http://www.aspentimes.com/article/20111220/NEWS/111229999

The 9/11 Shrine is one of few visible on the mountain

 



 

Sanctuaries in the Snow
The Shrines of Aspen/Snowmass
(Including plaques, memorials, displays And miscellaneous items)

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