The Aspen Fire Department is holding a virtual memorial service on GrassRoots TV to mark the 19th anniversary of 9/11. Aspen Fire Chief Rick Balentine is the lead organizer and will be speaking as part of the program, along with Aspen Mayor Torre, local veteran Lt. Col. Dick Merritt, Rabbi Mendel Mintz, artist Patricia Blanchet Bradley and many others.
GrassRoots TV will be airing footage from the fire department’s private honor guard and laying of the wreath ceremony that took place in the morning. The annual ceremony is usually open to the public and attended by hundreds of residents.
In past years, Balentine said they’ve lined the sidewalk with 343 roses -- one for each of the firefighters that died at ground zero. They’re doing this again this year on Sept. 11 in front of the fire station in downtown Aspen and encouraging passersby to take a rose, each one tied with a photograph of the firefighter.
“All I ask that people do if they pick a rose up, is to say that person’s name out loud,” Balentine said, “because I truly believe that as long as your name is said out loud, you never die.”
Balentine emphasized with everything going on this year -- from the wildfires, to the pandemic -- this is a moment to say thank you to local fire crews, health care workers and first responders.
“There’s still people out there that are risking their lives everyday to keep us safe,” Balentine said. “It’s really about remembering not only the firefighters that died, but using this occasion to honor everybody that’s still giving their all.”
Several musicians with ties to Aspen will be performing as well, including John Oates, formerly of Hall and Oates, Jimmy Buffet and Leon & JK. And there will be a slideshow from local FEMA photographer and journalist Andrea Booher, who was at the World Trade Center covering the aftermath of Sept. 11.
“Our goal with this is to try to bring a little bit of hope to the community,” Balentine said. “In spite of all the wildfires, the floods, the hurricanes, global warming and everything that’s going on right now, we’re going to be okay if we come together.”