Gently, Pastor Tim Orlowski told a group of children who will learn about 9/11 as history a little about that day 15 years ago.
He likened first responders – fire fighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians – to superheroes.
“They are the people who come to help you when you are most in need,” he told the youngsters during Christ the King Lutheran Church’s Worship in the Park. And on Sept. 11, 2001, many were needed, he said, because “something really tragic” happened in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.
Orlowski then asked any first responders attending the service to come forward and, somewhat reluctantly, two volunteer firefighters and a retired police officer joined him at the altar for a prayer. Each was given a bouquet of red flowers.
Later, Roger Landgren, who spent 31 years as a police officer in suburban Minneapolis, said he didn’t know what was going on when several people called out his name to be recognized. Retired for 25 years, “you don’t brag about it,” he said of his service.
The church service was one of several ways that Durangoans this weekend marked the 15th anniversary of the attacks, in which nearly 3,000 people died when 19 terrorists hijacked four airliners. Most, including about 400 first responders, died in New York City after two of the planes flew into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center, which both collapsed.
On Saturday evening, a performance of “The Guys” brought many in the audience to tears as the play laid bare the larger, ongoing toll of the attacks. The play tells the story of a New York City Fire Department captain, played by Dan Lauria, who seeks the help of an editor to write eulogies for eight of his firefighters who died at the World Trade Center.
Some of the proceeds from the play and an accompanying backstage event on Friday went to area police and fire agencies. A memorial True West Rodeo on Sunday also was to commemorate 9/11, and a portion of the ticket sales will be donated to The Hundred Club of Durango, a nonprofit that supports families of fallen first responders, and Operation Second Chance, a nonprofit that assists wounded, injured and ill combat veterans.
During a short question-and-answer session after the performance, Lauria and Wendie Malick, who plays the editor, were asked how different age groups receive the play, especially those who were too young to remember it.
Malick said younger audiences are moved by the play, especially because of a short video clip of the attacks shown at the beginning. The video, taken from various news clips, shows the second plane flying into the South Tower, which many Americans witnessed live as they watched news coverage of the fire at the North Tower. The video was added later because when the play was released in 2002, such footage was “too raw,” Malick said.
Orlowski also recalled that footage during his regular sermon on Sunday, saying he sat and watched the news that day and was, like most people, in shock but unable to look away. For a time, he said, he was in denial and just wanted to forget about it.
“I didn’t want to believe that the world had changed,” he said.
But the adjustment to a “new reality” of a world that is not as safe has made his faith stronger and more resilient, he said.
“We know what it’s like to be stretched and to grow as a result of it.”