20-year commemoration of 9/11 held


By Richard Walker
Archuleta County Vets for Vets

On Saturday, Sept. 11, local emergency response agencies held a commemorative event at the Veterans Memorial Park on Vista Boulevard in recognition and remembrance of the tragic events which occurred 20 years ago on that date. 

A procession of official vehicles made its way from the high school over to the park and, upon its arrival, the official events began. The American Legion Honor Guard performed a flag ceremony followed by a 21-gun salute from their firing team. 

Just as the thunder of the rifle volley subsided, three planes from the San Juan Squadron appeared over the park in a tight formation. The planes performed a 360-degree rotation of the park, then roared away, only to reappear and buzz overhead, then depart this time in a split formation, flying off in three different directions. 

Deputy Chief Karn Macht, of the Pagosa Fire Protection District, acted as the master of ceremonies and opening speaker. 

Following Macht’s initial remarks, the American Legion chaplain, Lee Voorhies, gave an invocation in which he asked for the Lord to bless and keep close to him all the victims of the 9/11 attacks, as well as the brave men and women of the fire departments, police departments and other emergency workers who rushed into danger to help their fellow man. He also asked the Lord to bless and keep all our brave service members serving in harm’s way.

Continuing with the ceremony, we heard heartfelt comments from Fire Chief Randy Larson, Police Chief Bill Rockenstock and Archuleta County Sheriff Rich Valdez. 

Following remarks by these officials, Niara Isley, Air Force veteran and member of the Pagosa Springs Vets for Vets organization, performed “Amazing Grace.” As Isley hit her last note, a bagpiper began to play the mournful tune again, accompanied by a Highlander drummer. 

Macht then told the assembled crowd about the tradition held by fire departments across the nation, of originally using the telegraph to signal when a firefighter had been killed by sending five dashes, followed by a pause and repeating this three times. This tradition is now symbolized by the ringing of a bell five times, then a pause, five times, pause and five more times. A firefighter then rang the bell, just so, signaling the conclusion of our ceremonies.

This event was supported by the Veterans Memorial Park and the American Legion Post 108 and was attended by 212 residents and guests.