From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 8, Number 25 - September 11, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Sublette County Residents Reflecton 9-11

by Trey Wilkinson

It’s hard to believe today marks the seventh anniversary of the tragic events that took place Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City (NYC) leaving our country in disarray.

Today many still mourn over loved ones lost, others are filled with anger over the events that transpired that day, and some simply reflect upon one of the greatest tragedies and hardships our country has ever faced.

One of those people who vividly remembers that day is Pinedale resident Mark Pape. Pape was on the 11th floor of an office building at 31W 34th St. in midtown Manhattan between 5th and 6th Avenue. Pape was in town on business. A senior buyer with Kmart at the time, Pape had hopped on an earlier flight Monday night so he could begin his appointments early on Tuesday morning. His other colleagues were on flights on Tuesday, but their planes were turned around enroute and forced to land at airports that could accommodate them.

Pape was the only person from his office that made it to the city. He had no idea catching an earlier flight would make such a difference. “The day is still very clear in my memory,” Pape said. “Walking down the stairs to see the chaos in a city where chaos doesn’t exist. People literally running out of the city. The streets and bridges were full of people. No cars. Everyone had to walk out if they wanted out.”

“Emergency vehicles were everywhere,” he added. “Later in the day after the towers fell, you could walk down the middle of 5th Avenue. No cars, cabs, nothing. The dust was all over the city by nightfall. All access in and out of the city was stopped. Airports close. I couldn’t get out of the city until Friday when I was finally able to rent a car and drive back to Michigan (where his family was located at the time).

Everything in the city stopped.”

Pape recalled emergency vehicles everywhere, a scene Sublette County EMS Supervisor Wil Gay would know something about.

At the time Gay was working as an electrician wiringw hat is now the Lodge of Pinedale, but still volunteered for the Sublette County EMS. Even though he was thousands of miles away, what transpired that day is still clear in Gay’s mind.

“My co-worker showed up from Big Piney telling me what had happened and I couldn’t even begin to imagine the magnitude of what had unfolded,” he said. “I couldn’t get to a TV until lunch time and was in awe of what had happened. I remember the feeling of ‘what do we do now?’”

Pape remembers his disbelief.

“I was in a conference room with my account rep when his assistant came in saying a plane had hit the Trade Center,” he said. “We thought she was crazy. She was upset because her sister worked in the South Tower. She left and we thought it was a small plane – single engine type of deal. That has happened before so it’s not unheard of. As more people starting talking about it we turned on a TV in the conference room and watched as plane number two hit. Then it was real.”

A helpless feeling overtook Pape.

“We watched as the towers burned and later fell,” he said. “The reports of planes hitting the Pentagon and crashing in Pennsylvania came in along with threats of other targets. This included the Empire State Building (which stood just across the street from where Pape was located at the time).

No one knew what was going to happen next. You could only watch and wait.”

“For anyone who has ever visited NYC, they know what the city is like,” Pape added. “People everywhere. Cabs, subways, uses moving the thousands of people all over the city; sidewalks full of New Yorkers going to work; stores, restaurants, bars all packed with people enjoying the excitement; Broadway shows, Central Park, all the attractions and sightseeing – then in a split second, nothing open. No stores. No restaurants. No transportation. Airports closed. The tunnels and bridges, New York’s access points closed. A deserted city of 8 million – it was a humbling experience being a part of that.”

While Gay wasn’t in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, he has been to Ground Zero five times since terror struck the city, the first visit coming in March of 2003. Gaytraveled to New York with his wife and two children.

“The size of the actual area was overwhelming,” he said. “When you compare before and after photos as well as see what was left standing around it, I was amazed that there wasn’t more destruction and wondered how did people even get out of there? I can remember standing in Battery Park and looking up to where the towers once stood. I could replay the images from the TV of the crowds standing in the same area when the second plane hit and hearing all the screaming.”

Gay’s trip to NYC in 2003 was followed by four other trips throughout the last several years.

“The first couple of years it was in demolition mode,” he said. “Then you could slowly see some progress as far as new utility systems being added and some basework being done. The locals are still not happy with the slow progress in rebuilding the site.”

Like so many, Pape wanted to show his strength along with the strength of our nation by not letting the events of Sept. 11, 2001, affect his everyday life.

“9-11 did not keep me away,” he said. “In fact, I went to work for that company a year later.”

However, a lingering awareness shadowed Pape.

“The event brought about a realization of never being safe living or working in that environment,” he admitted. “Eight million people in Manhattan and you always felt comfortable until then.”

Pape also admitted that there was a little concern during the East Coast blackout the next year.

“You could sense it in people,” he said. “An underlying fear had taken hold.”

Pape has lived in Pinedale now for four years and notices the obvious differences between western Wyoming and New York City.

“Life here is completely different,” he said. “It is quiet, simple, calm. You get to enjoy your family. New York is a lifetime away from here for most people.”

But being a lifetime away hasn’t stopped the effects of that day making their way to Sublette County. Gay can testify to that.

“We (EMS) are now required to take a basic awareness class for Homeland Security,” he said. “It teaches you to have a heightened level o fawareness and what to do if you suspect something is out of place. I like the idea of; if it looks out of place, report it. Better to find out it was nothing that to not say anything and have it be something.”

Pape understands how important basic awareness can be and how if you’re unprepared or unaware the devastation that can result.

“It gave you a real understanding of what kind of terror is out there in the world,” he said.

“I have traveled all over the world for business and pleasure. I had never felt vulnerable to any outside threat until that day. And itwas on our turf.”

Most of us have a hard time remembering a specific day or event that took place seven years ago. The events of Sept. 11, 2001, prove terror can paint a picture that may never be erased. However, the results of these pictures etched in our minds that remindus of that day have made us stronger, have united us as a country.

“As one instructor put it, ‘there will never be another plane hijacked because we are all watching who gets on-board and we as a country will never let it happen again,’” Gay said. “I think Patriot’s Day is for all of us to be proud of the fact that we live in America. While some thought we would be torn apart, I believe it united us even more. And we must not forget the men and women who are fighting for our country to maintain our freedom and our way of life.”

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