Keith and Jeanine Walashek remember the 9/11 terrorist attacks vividly. They recall exactly where they were and the pain and fear that overcame their bodies.
So when Keith heard that at one point New York was considering canceling the 9/11 Tribute in Light due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he was angry.
“I promised to never forget,” he says. “Well, this is how you start forgetting. You start canceling things. You start forgetting things. There’s a whole generation right now who doesn’t even know about 9/11. We need to keep that going.
“When I heard New York canceled their lights, it was like a kick in the gut. So we thought, ‘OK, let’s do something.’ So I thought we’d do lights.”
It was easier said than done, because lights that bright and that illuminate that high aren’t readily available. One company in Arizona offers them. The town of Gilbert was going to use them, but when it canceled its memorial, the Walasheks grabbed the lights.
“It will be the brightest lights in Arizona,” Jeanine says. “We want the first responders to know this matters to us because it really affected them.
When she thinks of 9/11, Jeanine recalls the sounds of the television and the feelings she felt that day. She kept her kids home from school.
“They were little, and I was scared,” she says. “I remember feeling bonded with my neighbor over this because they felt the same way I did. I think we’re losing that feeling. We’re all in this country together, and we need to support each other.”
The event will take place in the parking lot of The Green Room and its sister coffeeshop, Amped Coffee Co., at 6:30 p.m. September 11.
Introducing The Green Room
Housed in the former Pizza Hut, The Green Room is a relatively new venture for the Walasheks. The couple received the keys to the building in January, but, of course, the contractors started working two weeks before COVID hit.
“We were out of the country when COVID hit,” Keith says about a trip to Israel. “It was the worst time ever to commit to a build. On the other side, we were shut down, so it was the best time to do it.
“We took advantage of that. We moved everything out of this space (Amped) and did a super deep clean to keep everyone safe. We took that opportunity to rearrange how we function, too.”
The Green Room did open in July. The salad restaurant—not a walk-up salad bar—was the result of the Walasheks’ studies. They monitored what the community was saying, and most wanted to see a healthy restaurant or salad restaurant go into that space.
“It’s full service, like Chipotle,” Jeanine says. “We serve you. I think that’s the hardest part about opening it right now, is really getting the word out that this is full service. We even made our sneeze guard extra tall—like, taller than what the health board requires.”
The Green Room—a further play on music, like the Amped Coffee Co. name—boasts five salads. One is the Amptastic, a Southwestern-style salad with black beans, crunchy jalapeno, corn, cheese, red peppers and fire-roasted red peppers and served with a Chipotle ranch dressing.
The Superhero salad is vegan, with spinach and three types of kale, with shredded carrot, quinoa, broccoli, edamame, butternut squash, pumpkin seeds, dried cherries and a citrus poppyseed vinaigrette.
For the protein powerhouse cobb, bacon, eggs, chicken, tomatoes and shredded cheddar cheese sit on a bed of crisp romaine lettuce.
Spinach is topped with quinoa, chicken, mandarin oranges, edamame, pumpkin seeds, dried cherries and shredded white cheddar is the Thai citrus salad.
Last, the Fruitopia is a spring mix lettuce with quinoa, shredded carrots, peaches, chicken, dried cranberries, white cheddar and walnuts with a raspberry vinaigrette.
Guests are welcome to design their own salad as well.
Amped opened in June 2018, and in mid-August 2019 a customer arrived who wanted to purchase treats for first responders. She paid for a $100 gift card and left it behind the counter. Since then, the Amped employees and customers have kept the card topped up so first responders’ tabs will always be paid.
“The card hasn’t hit zero since we started,” Jeanine says. “It’s been really cool. It’s not like they make a whole lot of money. So, they just come in and they eat. It’s a great way to show them that the community is behind them.”
The Walasheks opened Amped as a way for their son, Austin, and other musicians to have a place to showcase their talents.
“We thought it would be great to have a stage here in Anthem for the community,” Jeanine says. “We’re a platform for up-and-coming musicians. That’s where the name ‘Amped’ comes from.”
The Walasheks say the 9/11 memorial and the first responders’ gift card are personal missions as well. Their oldest son, Dylan, is a medically retired police officer. His partner was Clayton Townsend, a Salt River police officer who was killed by a distracted driver. Dylan named his son Clayton.
The 9/11 event will benefit Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which has a local chapter. Siller, who was assigned to Brooklyn’s Squad 1, had just finished his shift and was on his way to play golf with his brothers when he got word over his scanner of a plane hitting the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Upon hearing the news, Siller called his wife, Sally, and asked her to tell his brothers he would catch up with them later. He returned to Squad 1 to get his gear.
Siller drove his truck to the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, but it had already been closed for security purposes. Determined to carry out his duty, he strapped 60 pounds of gear to his back and raced on foot through the tunnel to the Twin Towers, where he gave up his life while saving others.
“It turns out they’re the reason New York is doing the 9/11 lights again,” Keith says. “The Tunnel to Towers Foundation just pressured them.”
Amped Coffee Co.’s memorial will feature bagpipers; a testimonial from 9/11 survivors; and then Austin Walashek’s band, Wild Giants, will perform the Jimi Hendrix version of the “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“It’s going to be kind of cool,” Keith says. “We’ll be led into prayer and then we’ll go into a moment of silence, and the silence is going to be broken by Wild Giants playing the ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ Jimi Hendrix style.
“When they hit the part ‘bombs bursting in air,’ that’s when the lights will go on. It should be cool. It’ll be bright.”
Jeanine hopes this event makes Americans remember the importance of community.
“We’re not missing 9/11,” she says. “We’re missing 9/12. Do you remember how we felt, as a nation, on 9/12? It doesn’t matter how you voted. We’re just all in it together.
“The 9/12 feeling is slipping away. We can’t let it slip away. Even though we’re just a little coffee shop here in Anthem, we want to do a little something and make a little difference to those who aren’t forgetting.”