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Memorial stair climb in Williston salutes the sacrifices made on 9/11

Eighteen years ago on Sept. 11, 2001, America was attacked at the World Trade Center. The fires that ensued killed almost 3,000 people, among them 412 emergency service personnel, whose last and finest hour was spent climbing the stairs of the 110-story towers, saving as many lives as they could along the way.

To honor the heroism and sacrifice of the men and women who died on that day, the Williston Fire Department was among departments nationwide participating in a 9/11 Stair Climb on Wednesday, Sept. 11.

Firefighters, police, and emergency service personnel were invited to participate in the climb, which used the Training Tower at Station 2 to stage a 110-flight climb. That is equivalent to 22 times up and down the training tower in Williston.

Firefighters wore full turnout gear and air packs, for the occasion, and some carried equipment with them as well. A firefighter played the bagpipes to lead the procession to the training tower.

Mike Fronimos, public information officer and Battalion chief for the Williston Fire Department, was among organizers for the event, which he said is a very important date not just for all firefighters and emergency responders.

“Everyone in America was affected by that day in one way or another,” Fronimos told the Williston Herald. “And for those of us in public safety, law enforcement, and fire or EMS, we are all affected, whether we know someone there or not. It’s not every day that those firefighters are faced with a challenge like that, but we build that pride and that love of service, and that understanding of the job.”

Tom Dickey, with Williston Fire Department, views the day as a time not only to salute the sacrifices of those who died, but to reduce complacency going forward.

“It’s always in the back of our mind that that happened,” he told the Williston Herald. “Three hundred forty-three firefighters lost their lives, and in all, 2,996 civilians lost their lives. You never want to be complacent. It is our job to do what we have to do, to protect the public and each other.”

Fronimos led off the ceremony with a speech memorializing the efforts on Sept. 11, naming some of the firefighters who died, and explaining why the Williston Fire Department decided it should join fire departments across the nation in conducting a memorial stair climb.

“It is today and this week that firefighters and law enforcement from all across the United States climb in honor of the heroes lost 18 years ago,” he said. “On Sept. 11, they were faced with a tragedy that no one had ever had to face, yet they climbed. Many knew they would never return, that this was their last fight. Yet they climbed.”

Two of the officers, who were avid marathon runners, made it as far as the 78th Floor. They were Fire Marshal Ronald Bucca and Battalion Chief Orio Palmer. In recordings, Palmer said they could attack pockets of the fire and put them out.

“Knowing the peril they were in,” Fronimos said. “Yet they climbed. Hundreds of firefighters and police officers entered those towers, many understanding that this would not only be their finest hour, but also, probably, their last.”

Captain Patrick J. “Paddy” Brown of Ladder 3 sent out the last message of his life just before the first tower collapsed.

“This is 3 Truck and we’re still heading up,” he said.

Chaplain Father Mychal Judge, SOC Chief Ray Downey, Captain Terry Hatton, Lieutenant Andy Fredricks, the father-son fatalities of Joe and Joseph Angellini, the sons of legendary Rescue 2 Captain John Vigiano, John Jr. and Joe, and of course Paddy Brown are some of the more often heard names associated with that fateful day in 2001.

However there is another name not heard so often. A forgotten hero. Firefighter/patrolman Keith Roma.

Roma was not a member of the FDNY. He was a member of the New York City Fire Patrol. The only member of the Fire Patrol to die on 9/11.

“His body was recovered on Christmas Eve 2001,” Fronimos said.

Roma was on an upper floor, surrounded by 11 civilians.

“My friend Michael J. Lyons of Squad 41 in the Bronx was killed on 9/11,” Fronimos said.

The two men met in 1998, when Lyons was with Engine Company 44.

“He was a loving husband and father of two daughters,” Fronimos said. “His second daughter, Mary Michael was born two months after Sept. 11.”

Mike and five other members of Squad 41 were all killed on Sept. 11, while trying to save others.

“Mike’s body was never recovered,” Fronimos said. “They knew the dangers they faced. Yet they climbed.”

There were many others. Lieutenant Paul Martini, firefighters Chris Pickford, Greg Buck and John Schardt of Engine Company 201 in Brooklyn. They were the last unit through the Battery Tunnel before it was closed. They were last seen racing to the south tower. It would collapse on them, burying them under tons of debris.

Fronimos became better acquainted with Engine 201 and Ladder 114 in the months following Sept. 11, 2001, when firefighters volunteered to visit and help support their New York brothers during a time of deep grief and mourning.

“We did chores for them, cooked meals for them, went on runs on the rig with them,” Fronimos told the Williston Herald. “That has progressed over the 18 years to not just calling them friend, but they are truly brothers. That is what we call it, the brotherhood of firefighters, the sister hood … two of the firefighters were even in my wedding back in 2013.”

Fronimos said an estimated 90,000 people responded to ground zero at the World Trade Center’s towers in the months and years following its collapse, to assist with the rescue and recovery operation. More than half of the volunteers have since developed health conditions, including 10,000 who were diagnosed with various cancers associated with exposure to toxins in the effort. More than 240 additional police officers and more than 200 firefighters have died as a result of these complications, Fronimos said.

“It is in their honor that we are here today to remember the sacrifices of these brave men and women who died and not only climbed the stairs of the World Trade Center, but climbed their way to Heaven. And today … we continue to climb.”

Slowdown, rain prompt high turnout of job seekers

With colder weather on the way, soft oil prices, growing supply and shrinking access to capital, there’s been a slowdown in hydraulic fracturing jobs in Bakken shale country.

That, combined with heavy rain that led to road restrictions, kept many workers home today — and helped swell the number of job seekers to at least 650 at the semi-annual Northwestern North Dakota Job Fair at the Raymond Center Wednesday, Sept. 11.

Employers, by and large, said they were pleasantly surprised with the qualifications of potential applicants. Applicants, meanwhile, also seemed happy with the quality of job opportunities.

It was a win-win that put a smile on the face of Williston Job Services office manager Paula Hickel.

“I’ve heard no complaints or concerns from employers or the job seekers,” she said. “I’ve heard excitement from both sides. And from the employers in what they saw today, it was true job seekers with skills, coming in with smart questions and genuine interest in going to work for their companies.”

Among the many job seekers was Ken Cheman, originally from the West Texas area. He had a job with a crew that does hydraulic fracturing, but the sudden lack of work prompted him to dive back into the job market.

“I really liked what I was doing,” he said. “But my old company went from seven to eight fleets. They’re now down to four.”

Those four were having a hard time keeping busy, Cheman indicated.

Each crew in the hydraulic fracturing fleet is generally 12 or so people. One crew will be two weeks off, while the other two crews are working alternating 12-hour shifts.

Cheman said the company was doing its best to keep everyone busy and take care of employees, but he felt the lack of work was like handwriting on the wall.

“They offered us two weeks off with pay,” Cheman said. “It’s a guaranteed 40 hours, so of course you take it, But it’s only 40 hours of pay, and I want to work. I’ll take my chances here.”

Cheman had talked to Nuverra, among other places with driving jobs, trying to decide what he would like to do next.

“I got here pretty late, but I’ve been impressed with the organized layout,” he said. “It’s well mapped out.”

Nuverra’s recruitment manager Mariel McCoy offered Cheman a list of positions with several perks, including a $5,000 sign-on bonus, a $500 fire-resistant clothing allowance, safety boot reimbursement, a $500 housing allowance for those able to meet safety requirements, and several other things as well.

“We just purchased several new trucks for our new Williston location next to Halliburton and Baker Hughes,” she said, indicating the company still sees a lot of work ahead of it.

Drivers and mechanics are the two “hot” jobs at Nuverra, though she would not say how many of each job the company would like to fill.

“That changes based on customer needs, but we are looking for quite a few mechanics,” she said.

Meanwhile, the midstream companies, which transport production by pipelines, are not in a slowdown at all.

Kinder Morgan’s Rick Barltett said steady production is all he can see on the horizon.

“It’s looking good for us,” he said. “Everything that is fracked already still has to collect that production, so we are seeing steady operations ahead.”

Kinder Morgan listed about 21 different jobs, ranging from entry level gaugers and line patrollers to higher level, experienced positions like Operations Supervisor.

“We’ve had a lot of good applications, a lot of very good talent here today,” he said.

City Commission approves STAR Fund grants for new taproom, air ambulance service

A new taproom and air ambulance service are coming to Williston, with some help from the STAR Fund.

At the Tuesday, Sept. 10 meeting of the Williston City Commission, Economic Development Director Shawn Wenko presented the commission with two applications for the STAR Fund’s Flex PACE Interest Buydown Program, requesting grants up to $118,000 for Hops & Berry, LLC and Executive Air Taxi Corporation. The Flex PACE program utilizes funds from the STAR Fund and Bank of North Dakota to help businesses grow, prosper and succeed. Bank of North Dakota provides a two to one match to the STAR Fund allocation.

Executive Air Taxi Corporation is a full-service aviation company based in Bismarck, providing air ambulance service, maintenance, flight training, airplane rental and more. Wenko said the main intent of the company’s expansion into Williston is to provide air ambulance transport to patients in the region. The company is looking to build a aircraft hangar and flight crew center at the new Williston Basin International Airport. Wenko explained that the expansion would improve healthcare options for the city’s residents.

“We are less than a month out from the opening of our new airport XWA,” Wenko said. “Executive Air service is critical towards enhancement of medical care and options in the community.”

Hops & Berry, LLC is a self-service beer and wine taproom that will be located at the Renaissance on Main building in downtown Williston. The taproom will offer up to 46 craft beer selections, eight wine options and limited food options. Patrons will check in with an attendant to confirm their age and set up payment, at which point they will receive an electronic bracelet that will allow them to dispense their own beer and wine. Wenko said there is a “critical niche” in Williston in regards to new food and beverage options, one that Hops & Berry will help to fill.

“Hops & Berry is going to be a great addition to our thriving downtown,” said Wenko. “The self-serve option is a unique concept that I believe residents and visitors alike will enjoy.”

The commission voted to unanimously to approve both grant applications, with Hops & Berry receiving $10,000 from the STAR Fund for its $250,000 build-out, and Executive Air receiving $108,000 from the STAR Fund for its $650,000 building.

DEQ seeks applications for Volkswagen settlement funding

BISMARCK, N.D. — The North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality (NDDEQ) is now accepting applications for project funding from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust. Eligible projects will be those outlined in North Dakota’s mitigation plan that reduce emissions of the pollutant nitrogen oxide (NOx).

During the first year of the project, the NDDEQ may issue up to $2.7 million in funding from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust. Funding will be available to government and non-government entities for projects that mitigate the negative air quality impacts caused by Volkswagen’s use of emissions testing defeat devices in their vehicles sold and operated in the United States. North Dakota’s share of the trust is approximately $8.1 million.

More information, program guidelines and all the necessary application materials are available at https://deq.nd.gov/AQ/planning/VW.aspx. Applications can be mailed to the Division of Air Quality, 918 E Divide Avenue, Bismarck, ND 58501-1947 or emailed to airquality@nd.gov. Applications must be received by 5 p.m. CST on Oct. 25, 2019.

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North Dakota Art Gallery Association chooses two local artist's exhibits to tour state

The North Dakota Art Gallery Association held their annual meeting in Dickinson this week, and two artists from Williston were chosen to share their work across the state.

The meeting is a chance for art galleries throughout the state to propose artists from their areas to be selected as part of the NDAGA touring exhibits. Gallery directors and representatives met at Dickinson State University from Sunday, Sept. 8 to Tuesday, Sept. 10 to discuss the state of the arts in North Dakota, as well as take part in some hands-on workshops and tours. The group toured Robin Reynolds’ Dacotah Clayworks in Hebron and the Dickinson Museum Center, in addition to taking part in artist sessions on fluid art painting and crate building.

James Memorial Art Center Vice President Deana Novak was among those in attendance, and she told the Williston Herald that one of the highlights of the meeting is the artist proposals, where each gallery presents their artists to be chosen for the NDAGA traveling exhibits. Sixteen artists were proposed, with Williston artists Mack Schroer and Kortney Beth Wilson being among those selected to tour.

Novak said it is important to encourage and promote local artists, and that she tries to bring at least three artists to the meeting each year to pitch their work.

“Sharing the talent in our area is important to show the state that as a whole, Williston has a thriving art community.” she said. “We are so proud of our local artists, and very excited to be able to share their work with the rest of the state.”

Schroer hails from Kansas originally, and has an exhibition of work showing at the James throughout September. Schroer’s exhibition, “Pop Cars,” was created during his time as a truck driver, when he would create colorful, pop culture characters on the pages of his logbook. Johnny Cash, Leonardo Da Vinci and Chewbacca are just a few of the characters Schroer has brought to life with striking detail on the pages. His work was picked up by several galleries in the state, and will tour throughout 2021.

Wilson has been living in Williston for a little over a year, and has created stunningly colorful pieces featuring nature scenes, as well as creating unique pieces using animal skulls. Wilson submitted work for the James’ Juried Community Show, where she took home the top prize. It was at that show that Novak said she knew she wanted a full exhibition of Wilson’s work. Wilson’s work will travel throughout the state, inclusing the Mind’s Eye Gallery at Dickinson State University.

“Her use of color was something that caught me off guard a little bit,” Ian Mabry, director of the Mind’s Eye Gallery told the Williston Herald. “I myself usually work with a lot of neutral, earthy tones, so when I see color used in interesting and creative ways it really catches my eye.”

To learn more about the North Dakota Art Gallery Association and its current touring exhibits, visit ndartgalleryassociation.weebly.com.