CV At 40: 9/11 Attacks, Hugo Selenski Among Enduring Stories Of The 2000s
WILKES-BARRE — The 2000s brought about major news stories, both on the world stage and at the local level.
The decade experienced the most devastating terrorist attack in world history and a global economic depression, and saw the emergence of one of Luzerne County’s most notorious killers.
But it also brought about the realization of a major boon to the area economy at a time when joblessness was soaring.
Through it all, The Citizens’ Voice was there with the news, good and bad, informing our readers about the stories that mattered most to them. Here’s a look at some of the most important stories of the decade:
Sept. 11, 2001
The attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon forever changed the world, ushering in an era of increased security and highlighting the reality that terrorism can hit home, hard. The attacks claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people, including King’s College alumni Ryan D. Fitzgerald, James H. Walsh and Leonard J. Snyder.
Snyder, 34, was a Wilkes-Barre native who died in the World Trade Center’s South Tower, where he worked on the 101st floor as an insurance broker for a worldwide consulting firm. Snyder and his colleagues made it to the 76th floor and then split up, with some cramming into elevators and others, including Snyder, taking the stairs. Those who took the stairs were never seen again.
The attacks also claimed the lives of several other people who had ties to Luzerne County: Michael Carlo, Anthony Perez, John Rodak, Efrain Romero Sr., and Alexander M. Filipov.
Two bodies unearthed from the yard of a Kingston Twp. home the afternoon of June 5, 2003, set off a Hollywoodesque chain of events that would span more than a decade.
The discovery — which was soon followed by three more sets of remains being uncovered — led to the resident, Hugo Selenski, being acquitted of double-murder in the deaths of two of them: drug dealers Frank James, 29, and Adeiye Keiler, 22, but being convicted of murdering two others: pharmacist Michael Kerkowski and girlfriend Tammy Fassett, who prosecutors say were strangled with flex ties as Selenski and accomplice Paul Weakley sought money Kerkowski made by illegally selling prescription painkillers.
The fifth set of remains was never identified.
Selenski’s case was replete with sensational developments, including his conviction for robbing a Monroe County jeweler in a violent home-invasion in January 2003 and his infamous escape from the Luzerne County Correctional Facility by using a bedsheet rope in October 2003.
Selenski, now 45, is serving life in prison at State Correctional Institution Pine Grove.
In early 2008, the impact of Marcellus Shale natural gas exploration was becoming apparent. The “modern gold rush,” as it was known, prompted developers to buy up leases across the region to get in on the action.
While exploratory wells in Fairmount and Lake townships proved unviable, a vast web of natural gas pipelines began to crisscross Luzerne County as drillers seek to transport the gas to market.
Work on the distribution system continues today with the development of the 185-mile Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, which will connect Marcellus Shale with the Transcontinental pipeline, which has brought gas to the Northeast from the Gulf Coast for almost 60 years.
According to developer Williams Cos., the project was expected to create $1.6 billion economic impact, including supporting about 8,000 jobs.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton announced a sweeping plan of church closings and consolidations in early 2009, a move that dramatically changed structure of the Catholic church in the 11-county diocese and impacted nearly every parish in Luzerne County.
Luzerne and Lackawanna counties — long the areas with the most churches in the diocese — each saw their parishes cut in half, with Luzerne County pared to 34 from 72.
Overall, the diocese cut the number of parishes from 209 to 118.
The plan was controversial, and drew appeals from at least six parishes. But the consolidation continued even after Bishop Joseph F. Martino retired later in 2009. Today, the diocese has 120 parishes.
The Great Recession hit the nation and region hard in the late 2000s. Nationally, the jobless rate in October 2009 was 10.2 percent, the highest rate since April 1983. That same year, Luzerne County experienced a 9 percent unemployment rate.
Citing the recession and difficult financial times, AAA Mid-Atlantic predicted local residents would travel less during the 2009 holiday season. Consumer spending was also down by 2.8 percent that year in part because of the recession, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The economy has since improved, with the national rate of unemployment dropping to 3.9 percent last month. The rate in Luzerne County was down to 5.5 percent in July.
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