Press "Enter" to skip to content

Responding to 9-11

Brief by Central Staff

Sept. 11 events – November 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

The mass murders on Sept. 11 happened a long way from Central Colorado, but the local response was almost instantaneous.

Perhaps the most bizarre reaction came in Leadville, where there was a run on gasoline that evening. Only one station was open, the Kum & Go, and the line was so long that the station implemented a $10 maximum purchase.

That didn’t sit well with panicky motorists. “They are trying to fight with me, trying to fight with the police, trying to fight with each other,” manager Chris Jones told the Herald-Democrat.

Leadville Police Chief Jim Zoller was at the station, pumping gas. “I’m just trying to make it move a little faster,” he said, explaining that he had been called out. “We had one officer on, and he said this insanity was going on. I’m just trying to keep some order here.” He then joked that the police motto should be changed from “to protect and serve” to “to protect and service.”

There were reports that gasoline was selling for up to $5 a gallon in some parts of the country, amid fears that the attack would lead to a shortage. As it turns out, petroleum prices have since dropped on account of decreased demand — fewer people are driving, and airline traffic is way down.

Indeed, there wasn’t any air traffic at all for a few days. On Sept. 11, the Federal Aviation Administration closed American skies to all but military aircraft, and flights — even from our rural airports — did not resume until Sept. 15.

They were serious about it, too, even for government operations. At about 9:30 a.m. that Tuesday (the attacks began at 6:45 a.m. Mountain Time), a small airplane flying over the San Luis Valley was buzzed three times by F-16 fighter jets before radio contact was established and the plane landed in Alamosa. The surprised pilot and passenger were U.S. Geological Survey employees performing an aerial survey over Del Norte.

On the ground, the U.S. Department of the Interior placed access restrictions on facilities operated by the Bureau of Reclamation. Among those were Pueblo Reservoir, where boating and fishing were halted, along with Twin Lakes and Turquoise Lakes. Local sheriffs were advised to increase security at other reservoirs and power plants.

Most of those restrictions have since been lifted, although that could change at any moment, now that anthrax is a factor and there’s an increased fear of biological warfare that might affect public water supplies.

In Fairplay, the Park County courthouse was closed on Sept. 11, while security patrols at all county offices were increased. Sheriff Fred Wegener said he was primarily concerned about copycats, and “We don’t want them to think our guard is down.”

Like most businesses, we’ve received all sorts of advice about how we should “improve our security system.” Basically, that system is a 60-pound chow-mix dog who’s worked pretty well for the past 12 years, so we’ll probably postpone such improvements.