9/11 10 years later: Attacks shifted the course of their lives

Four area residents talk about the impact of 9/11

Posted 8/30/11

Probably no single event since the bombing of Pearl Harbor has had more impact on the lives of so many Americans than the terrorist attacks on Sept. …

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9/11 10 years later: Attacks shifted the course of their lives

Four area residents talk about the impact of 9/11


Probably no single event since the bombing of Pearl Harbor has had more impact on the lives of so many Americans than the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The 9/11 attack killed about 3,000 people, and on Oct. 7, 2001, the United States launched Operation Enduring Freedom and the invasion of Afghanistan. In 2003, the U.S. launched Operation Iraqi Freedom with the invasion of that country.

Those two conflicts have cost billions of dollars. However, the cost of war is really about lives and suffering. The two wars have cost the lives of more than 6,000 U.S. service members and many thousands more have been wounded.

Additionally the cost is about the impact on millions of Americans who have seen their lives changed, whether from the loss of a loved one, personal injury or the impact made by the experiences here and abroad.

As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 draws near, several area residents talked about the impact the terrorist attacks and the war has had on their lives.

Man of faith

Col. Andy Meverden, the Colorado National Guard’s state chaplain, was in an adjacent building when the plane struck the Pentagon on 9/11.

“That day, 9/11, definitely was a day that changed my life,” the chaplain said. “I did what I could to help the walking wounded leaving the Pentagon that day and I’ll always remember that. But, I also have been to Afghanistan with our National Guard troops, I have notified 33 families that a loved one was a war casualty and I have spent countless hours providing pre-deployment briefings and counseling members of the military services and their families.”

Meverden began his military career 36 years ago as an enlisted man and became an officer in 1988.

He was in Washington, D.C., on 9/11 as part of a 14-member Colorado group on an official visit to the National Guard Bureau.

He said he had just stepped out of the building near the Pentagon when the plane struck. He saw the smoke and fire from the Pentagon, and because his cell phone wasn’t working, he went to his hotel to call family and his church office to assure them he was safe. He then returned to the Pentagon to do what he could to help people there.

He worked to help those leaving the building whether it was through counseling or with his cell phone working again, sharing it with people from the Pentagon so they could contact family.

“I guess one memory I have of that day is when President Bush addressed the nation on television and told the members of the military to get ready,” he said.

Soon after he returned home, one of the Colorado National Guard units, the 519th Special Forces, was alerted for deployment to Afghanistan. The unit needed a chaplain. Meverden volunteered and left on deployment in April 2002.

“It is hard to believe it has been 10 years since that day at the Pentagon and the time has certainly brought challenges,” he said. “I have seen negative aspects like the impact of that day and the wars on military men and women and their families. My faith has helped me deal with the issues and I feel blessed to have witnessed what has to be a miracle when a young man who was badly injured and in pain was healed immediately after I prayed over him.”

The chaplain doesn’t have definite plans for the 9/11 anniversary but he did say he will probably accompany the Colorado National Guard commander, probably to the anniversary ceremonies in Colorado Springs and in Denver.

“I hope to be at those ceremonies and I hope they ask me to pray,” he said.

Losing a brother

Ellen Sleevi said the upcoming 10th anniversary of 9/11, like the previous 9/11 anniversaries, is another reminder that her brother died in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

“My brothers, sisters and I went to New York immediately after 9/11 and for the first four anniversaries, but haven’t been able to make it there since,” the Parker resident said. “But we mark every anniversary just like we celebrate Chris’ birthday every Halloween. He is still with us and the things we do in his memory are just part of the healing process. But his death leaves a hole in my heart that nothing can ever really fill.”

Her brother Chris Faughnan worked for a brokerage firm and was in the offices in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I have never stopped missing him. I have his pictures in my house and I talk to him all the time,” she said. “It is hard to believe it has been 10 years since he left us. Our family will all be here and we’ll go to the ceremonies at the Broomfield memorial. My brother Michael is one of the guest speakers.”

She said the entire family has been invited to the special luncheon after the ceremonies but she will have to leave when the ceremonies are over in order to open Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli at 8283 S. Akron St. in Centennial.

“It will again be a special day at the deli for Chris,” she said. “I’ll have a banner up along with his picture and all the proceeds from the day’s sales go to the Chris Faughnan Memorial Foundation.”

Each year the foundation awards a $5,000 scholarship to a graduate of Arvada High School, Chris’ alma mater.

“Chris was a staunch supporter of education, so we set up the scholarship in his memory,” Sleevi said. “The application process includes an essay, and while we look at need, we also try to award the scholarship to a student who has the best vision for how to make the world a better place.”

Heeding the call

Gary Silva said he doesn’t need the approaching 10th anniversary to remind him of 9/11.

“That day definitely changed my life,” he said. “I look in the mirror and see my scars every day to remind me of 9/11 and the things that followed. I am glad I served in the Army, but I live with the impact of my injuries all the time. So I don’t need an anniversary to remind me about 9/11.

Silva dropped out of Thomas Jefferson High School to work, earned his GED and moved to Englewood to go to Arapahoe Community College.

“I had plans to earn a two-year degree in law enforcement, but then I saw the attack on the World Trade Center, I didn’t want to sit back, I wanted to do something,” he said. “So, when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, I enlisted in the Army.”

He went through training and volunteered for Afghanistan.

“I was in the infantry and I served a tour there,” he said. “I liked the Army and stuck with it. We had some good times in the Army and there were times that weren’t so good. I was wounded during my third deployment to the combat zone.”

He was hesitant but did say he was part of a patrol that was ambushed and was injured when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his vehicle.

“I don’t like to talk about it but I will say I don’t remember a lot about what happened,” he said.

Silva lost the sight in his left eye and there are still scars on the left side of his face. He is living on a disability income, and he said he doesn’t like to go out very much because people stare at his scars and it makes him mad. He said there may be additional surgeries to lessen the scars but none are currently scheduled.

“There isn’t a lot of physical pain but I can’t shut down the memories that flash into my mind about 9/11 and all the things I experienced during deployment. I am going to a counselor to try to work through all that mental stuff, but so far it hasn’t helped a lot,” he said. “I am thinking I might go to one of the 9/11 ceremonies, but again, I might just watch it on TV.”

Home again

Joe Rice, a colonel in the Army Reserve, was preparing for deployment to Bosnia on 9/11, went on that deployment in 2002 and the next year, made his first deployment to Iraq.

“Obviously 9/11 and all that has happened since have had a major impact on my life and the lives of my wife and children. It seems I was always headed out on deployment or just returning,” the Littleton resident said. “Deployments disrupt your career and is hard on family life. I have been on deployment for half the life of my youngest child.”

Rice, a former state representative, said the initial deployments were at a time when his older children were young and only knew Dad was gone for a while. He said he knew it got more difficult for those children as they became old enough to realize their father was being sent to a combat zone.

He said he often wonders how different life would have been if he had been at home as his children were growing up.

“Deployments are hard on my wife and deployments are hard on my children so naturally they are hard on me,” he said. “But that is part of being an Army reservist I guess.”

Rice is a civil affairs officer who saw his role change as the American mission in Iraq changed.

He said, on his first deployment, he worked to help set up local governments that could provide services to the people such as repairing roads and utilities.

“Thing changed in Iraq and so did my assignment,” Rice said. “The second and third deployments, I worked with the American military to help them develop a working relationship with local government officials. On later deployments, the assignment shifted again to helping prepare the Iraqi Army and police forces to take over providing security for the country as America moved into the role of adviser and greatly reduced its forces in that country.”

He said the 2003 deployment was a call up, and since then, he has been called and asked to go to Iraq again.

“The time I spend on a deployment in Iraq varies. In some cases it is four to six months and the longest stay was 15 months,” he said. “In all, I have more than three years total in Iraq.”

Rice, the former mayor of Glendale, had just started a position with Wells Fargo when the deployments began. He said he finally gave that up because of his frequent trips to Iraq.

He then was elected to the state Legislature. He served two terms and narrowly lost his bid for re-election in November 2010.

“There is no way to determine the impact of the deployments on my civilian career,” he said. “I am sure it was a factor but I don’t know if the time I was spending overseas had an impact on my re-election bid.”


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