DENVER (AP) – A commemoration in Denver of the Sept. 11 terror attacks alternated between somber and celebratory as visitors laid flowers near debris from the World Trade Center, watched military planes streak overhead and danced to lively tunes by the Beach Boys.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, who led the event at a downtown park, said he wanted it to honor both those who died and those still protecting the country — and to emphasize America’s will to survive.
“The Beach Boys are a symbol that America is not going to be beaten back, and that we have a character that they embody,” Hickenlooper told The Associated Press.
The event was one of a handful across the state Sunday, as residents decked their homes and cars with American flags and came together to remember those killed on 9/11.
Citizens joined firefighters at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison for a fundraising stair climb. Military fighters soared through stellar blue skies.
And hundreds joined former Gov. Bill Ritter and Gen. Charles Jacoby, commander of the North American Aerospace Command and Northern Command, at America the Beautiful Park in Colorado Springs.
“We join again today across this great land, as one,” Jacoby told the crowd.
In Broomfield, volunteers planted 3,023 small American flags in a park. Each flag bore the name of a person killed on 9/11.
In Denver, Hickenlooper, former Colorado senator and current Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and a host of other officials presided over a gathering at Civic Center Park.
The ceremony included a military flyover, a performance of taps, a 21-gun salute and a concert by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and the Beach Boys. A procession of soldiers, police and firefighters made its way through the crowd.
The crowd of thousands started dancing and singing as the Beach Boys performed a string of hits that began with “Catch a Wave,” followed by “Surf City,” “Surfin’Safari” and “Surfer Girl.”
“This is what America is all about, right?” singer Mike Love said. “And we’d like to have some good vibrations and a chance for fun, fun, fun.”
Nearby, law enforcement officers and members of the military stood watch over a piece of steel from an elevator shaft from the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
A sense of awe struck many of those approaching the piece of wreckage. Several laid roses next to it. Others wept, including Ana Rodriguez, a former New Yorker who now lives in Denver. She said she lost a cousin, Maggie Bocanegra, in the attacks.
“I can’t even look at it,” Rodriguez said.
Shay Person walked up to touch the piece of metal. Her cousin Robert Noonan, a trader with Cantor Fitzgerald, died after being trapped on the 105th floor of the North Tower. His remains have not been found.
“It’s very surreal,” Person said. “Just to sit here and look at a portion of the World Trade Center, it brings it all back. It’s just hard to believe it’s been 10 years.”
Downtown, former New York City residents Tucker Manion and Cara Kalriess sat at a table outside a Starbucks and pondered the date.
“You can never move on from it because history has a way of repeating itself,” Manion said. “You have to remember it.”
“It’s a reflection every year,” Kalriess said. “You remember where you were and people who you know who were affected by it.”
By P. Solomon Banda, Associated Press
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)