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Recalling emotions, honoring those lost the day the towers came down
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Robert Cline, a Bisbee firefighter, well remembers where he was when the first plane hit the Twin Towers. Then 19 years old, Cline was working as a dispatcher for the city of Bisbee and that day defined him.

“I remember calling Police Chief (Jim) Elkins at the time. As the phone was ringing I was like, ‘How do I tell this to him? What do I say?’ ” he remembered. “He answered the phone and I was like, ‘Chief, we’re under attack and I don’t know if it’s over.’ ”

Twenty years later, “As a firefighter I’m still watching over this great city,” he said.

Twenty years later almost to the minute, Cline, Bisbee Mayor Ken Budge, Police Chief Albert Echave, two firefighters, three police officers, four paramedics and a crowd of about 100 gathered to remember and pay their respects to the 2,977 people killed in the Sept. 11 attacks, including 412 people who were emergency workers. It was all part of a ceremony that was sponsored by, and opened, the new Bisbee Saturday Market Saturday at Vista Park.

Budge, a retired firefighter, reflected on the reason for the gathering.

“We are here to pay our respects,” he said.

Budge also discussed what those emergency workers faced as they raced up the stairs to the 80th floor, where the fire was. He knew two of those firefighters, who were from Ladder 20 in Lower Manhattan.

“Those two brothers, their captain and four other crew members all lost their lives in the North Tower that day as they raced to the 35th floor before the building collapsed,” Budge said. “A fully outfitted firefighter with breathing apparatus and tools can climb one floor per minute.”

Among the people attending was Cline’s father, Bob Cline, who was just putting on his work boots when he heard about the attack.

“I was getting ready to go to work and just sitting there drinking coffee, listening to the news and bam! This pops up,” he said. “It kind of shot the whole day, if you know what I mean. Nobody felt like working; everybody showed up and they didn’t know what to do. We didn’t know what to expect.”

The ceremony brought back many memories, some filled with deep emotion, such as Robert Cline related in the ceremony. He is strong in his faith in our nation’s ability to stand strong.

“They can knock us down but we’re going to come right back,” he said. “Back then that was something I thought about and I was able to remember it today and share it.”

Thirty miles away in Sierra Vista, another memorial was just getting underway: The 9/11 Freedom Fest and Tribute at Veterans Memorial Park, organized by the Warrior Healing Center and the Keepers of Liberty.

The Fest was an opportunity for local groups to connect with the community and to reflect on the importance of remembering 9/11, both to insure it never happens again and to pay tribute to those who lost their lives that day.

Timothy Umphrey now lives in Sierra Vista but in 2001 he lived in Middlesex, N.J., within commuting distance of New York City. He was in high school on 9/11, in calculus class when his teacher gave students the bad news.

“This (high school) was full of students whose parents commuted into the city to work,” the U.S. Army veteran said. “There were kids whose parents were in the (Twin Towers) working, and they died that day ... (The school) released us and as I left, I could see the smoke from Ground Zero.”

As he looked around him at the 9/11 Freedom Fest, Umphrey was pleased with what he saw.

“I think it’s great that they’re even having an event like this,” he said. “What happened in the community after that was an amount of solidarity that you just don’t (see today), especially right now you’re not seeing that. You would hope that starting to have events like this to remind everybody ... and not remember just the bad thing that happened but the really, really good thing that happened after that.”

Jim McCormick is a retired soldier and Desert Storm veteran. He was with the First Brigade, known as Tiger Brigade, Second Armor Division, part of the Second Marine Division. He is also a past post commander of the VFW Post 9972 in Sierra Vista and a past district commander. He is the current VFW state of Arizona surgeon, which is a traditional title. He is not a medical surgeon. As he looked around at the hundreds of people milling about and those who were working the event, he was satisfied.

“I think that 20 years is a long time,” he said. “The sadness will never go away but it’s time to look at this as an event that we should remember and if we remember it by coming out here at the park, and everybody coming out on 9/11, it’s generally a good thing ... I think this is a good way for people to come out, reaffirm friendships and remember what happened.”

The Fest was topped off with a concert featuring Trey Taylor, Yvette Serino, Keith Anderson and Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, followed by Don McLean of “American Pie” and “Starry Night” fame.

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Bond denied as details emerge in Sunizona double homicide case
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BISBEE — Horrific and heartbreaking details emerged Friday at a bond hearing for a man accused of killing his ex-wife and her companion, with information from the case leaving mostly everyone in the courtroom in tears.

No one knows exactly how Duong Nguyen and Robert Atwell died, an investigator told the Herald/Review.

All that Cochise County Sheriff’s investigators are sure of is that very little of their bodies — which were burned — remain.

Detectives believe that what was left of the pair was a few bones found on the sprawling Sunizona property that belongs to the parents of murder suspect Gregory Carlson off East Aschenbach Road.

At the end of the almost-three-hour hearing, Cochise County Superior Court Judge Laura Cardinal, who also was visibly emotional during the session, ruled that Carlson would remain at the Cochise County Jail with no bond.

“He is not eligible for bond,” Cardinal said somberly after Carlson’s attorney Kevin Oursland asked that he be released on $100,000 bond. “The defendant poses a substantial danger to the community. There is no certainty that he wouldn’t seek revenge on family members.”

Last week, a grand jury indicted Carlson on two counts of first degree murder, two counts of second degree murder, one count of tampering with physical evidence and two counts of abandonment or concealment of a dead body.

Oursland entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of his client for all seven counts.

One of Nguyen’s sisters and a cousin were present at the hearing. Nguyen’s parents had phoned in and communicated via a Vietnamese interpreter. One of Atwell’s sisters called in, as well. They all pleaded with Cardinal to keep Carlson locked up.

All testified that Nguyen feared Carlson and that’s why Atwell accompanied her on the trip.

The most searing and heart wrenching testimony was delivered by Nguyen’s sister, who stood shaking and sobbing in front of Cardinal, begging that the defendant remain in jail.

The two victims had been reported missing on Sept. 4 by family members in Philadelphia. Nguyen and Atwell had flown to Phoenix and rented a Kia sport utility vehicle so they could drive to Sunizona and retrieve the child that Nguyen shared with Carlson — a 4-year-old girl — on Sept. 3.

Nguyen and the 56-year-old Carlson had a contentious marriage and their relationship of late was described as “strained” by detectives who testified at Carlson’s hearing Friday. Nguyen, 30, had custody of the girl, but Carlson had visitation rights. The youngster had spent a week with the suspect and his parents in Sunizona.

When relatives of both Nguyen and Atwell did not hear back from the victims on Sept. 3, they contacted the Sheriff’s Office, spokeswoman Carol Capas said last week.

Sheriff’s deputies were sent to Carlson’s residence on Sept. 4 and found him with his child, Capas said. Carlson claimed that Nguyen was supposed to pick up the child, but she never showed up.

Sheriff’s Deputy German Paz reported to the Carlson property on Sept. 4 just after 6 a.m. following the missing persons call from relatives. Paz spoke with Carlson and noticed that the defendant’s hands were shaking.

The defendant also told Paz that Nguyen and Atwell were supposed to have stayed at a Quality Inn in Benson the night before they were scheduled to pick up the child. Paz noticed though that the youngster’s bags were not packed.

Sensing something was off, Paz requested help from the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team. Paz also had noticed something on the property that looked like “disturbed earth.”

As Paz was leaving the ranch after the arrival of the search and rescue team, he was called by one of the search and rescue members who stated that they could see a burned object on the property that looked like a vehicle. He also received a call from the motel stating that the victims had been there and had checked out the day before at 9 a.m. They were scheduled to pick up the youngster at Carlson’s residence by 10 a.m., investigators said.

That’s when Paz headed back to the Carlson property. He asked for assistance from Cpl. Jesus Davidson.

The helicopter pilot for the search and rescue team guided Paz and Davidson to the burnt out SUV.

Detectives were called to the scene and as the hours wore on, they began discovering more and more clues that changed the situation from a missing persons case to a possible double homicide. They found bones in the destroyed vehicle and along a trail near the car, said Det. John Gjerde. More bones were discovered near the section of disturbed earth.

The bones were found by investigators and cadaver dogs trained specifically to detect the scent of human remains, said Sheriff’s Det. Mike McGeoghegan.

Additionally, surveillance video provided to the investigators from the Quality Inn showed Atwell getting into a vehicle that matched the description of the car he and Nguyen had rented at the airport in Phoenix.

Meanwhile, the victims’ remains, not yet identified, have been sent to the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office, Gjerde said.

Assistant Cochise County Attorney Michael Powell said in court Friday that there were no remains left for the families to bury.

“We don’t know how they died,” Gjerde said after the hearing. “We may never know.”