North Dakota Co-op Honors 9/11 Victim Ann Nelson

By Victoria A. Rocha

September 11 victim Ann Nelson (r) and her mother, Jenette. The only North Dakotan to die in the 9/11 attacks, Ann was a "specialist" in living life to the fullest, said her mother. (Photo Courtesy of NDaREC)

September 11 victim Ann Nelson (r) and her mother, Jenette. The only North Dakotan to die in the 9/11 attacks, Ann was a “specialist” in living life to the fullest, said her mother. (Photo Courtesy of NDaREC)

Several years after Ann Nelson died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, her mother discovered her daughter’s “bucket list.”

No. 7 on that list: Buy a home in North Dakota.

While the 30-year old bond trader never got to achieve that goal before her death, North Central Electric Cooperative took part in a national volunteer effort that makes part of her dream true. It’s called Annie’s House and in March it will debut as the state’s first adaptive ski lodge for disabled children and wounded warriors in Bottineau Winter Park.

The only North Dakotan to die in the attack, Nelson grew up in Stanley, where her parents are still members of Mountrail-Williams Electric Co-op, as well as NCEC. Among the personal belongings that arrived home after the attack was her laptop, in which, five years later, her mom Jenette Nelson discovered the bucket list.

Video: Tour Annie’s House

And so came the idea to build something in her honor.

Featured in the 11,000 square foot lodge, the list will be prominently displayed in the rafters. The lodge is “so beautiful,” her mom said. “Annie didn’t like people to feel inferior in any way. She didn’t want people not to do what they wanted to do.”

North Central EC assistance included nearly $30,000 in in-kind electrical material and $150,000 from the co-op’s Economic Development Revolving Loan Fund to help with gap financing. On top of that, co-op employees volunteered scores of hours.

Most of the lodge was built during a build-a-thon Labor Day weekend in 2012 that attracted more than 400 volunteers. About half were locals, including co-op employees. Others came from across the country and included 9/11 families and New York City firefighters who toiled at Ground Zero.

A lot of progress was made that weekend, but there was still much to be done, said Jeff Parness, founder and chairman of the New York Says Thank You Foundation, which sponsors service projects throughout the country, including Annie’s House, in gratitude for the outpouring of support after the Twin Towers fell.

“We couldn’t get all of the work done, but after that weekend, every single day, volunteers continued to work on it,” said Parness. “It was a labor of love for so many in this community.”

One of those stalwarts was Cedric Jacobson, the former general manager of North Central EC. He knows Ann Nelson’s father, Gary, from when the new lodge was a makeshift chalet. And Jacobson is widely credited with raising nearly $2 million in cash and in-kind donations.

Jacobson’s involvement began in 2010, a year after he retired. “I was very glad to be part of it. I’ll cherish the memories and will miss the friendships I made,” he said. “I’m just glad I retired at a young enough age so that I could pound nails and swing a hammer!”

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