Larry Mizel, left, with Bill and Jeannie Ritter at the CELL

Exploring terrorism at the CELL with Governor Ritter

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter watched silently as the busy 16th Street Mall street scene around him exploded into flames.

Thankfully, this was not a real-life catastrophe transpiring on the first day of the Democratic National Convention, but part of the new Center for Empowered Living and Learning (the CELL), a non-profit multimedia exhibit exploring global terrorism. The CELL, based in the Denver Civic Center Cultural Complex across from the Denver Art Museum’s Hamilton Building at 99 West 12th Avenue, opens to the public on September 2 (tickets cost $6 for Colorado residents and $4.50 for Colorado students and seniors), but during the Convention VIPs are getting private tours of the first-of-its kind museum and its permanent exhibit, “Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere: Understanding the Threat of Terrorism” – and today those VIPs included Governor Ritter, his wife Jeannie and two of their sons.

A mock pipe bomb at the exhibit

That the governor would make time for this visit on what’s surely one of the busiest days of his term is likely a testament to the CELL’s prominent creator, Larry A. Mizel, CEO of Fortune 500 homebuilding company MDC Holdings, local philanthropist and founder of the Mizel Museum. Mizel accompanied Ritter on the tour, which also included members of the media and several burly security guards and showcased the extensive planning and preparation that went into this multi-million dollar exhibit. The institution, which is hoped to eventually include traveling exhibits and educational programs, tapped major terrorism experts and an Academy Award winning filmmaker for this exhibit, and it shows: From a hallway lined with video clips of terrorist bombings to touch-screen displays delineating the roots of terrorism to bomb models (see photo) to a “Hitting Home” immersion room in which Ritter and his entourage were subjected to a virtual bombing in the heart of Denver, the museum packs an in-depth, hard-edged punch.

Given the museum’s subject matter, it’s not surprising that at the end of the tour a reporter asked Ritter about potential terrorist attacks at the DNC. The governor noted that anarchists have threatened to disrupt the event, but added that local state and federal planners have been working for over a year to ensure security at the DNC and “we really believe we have the plan in place to do just that.”

Though as Ritter learned at the CELL today, terrorism can strike anyone, anytime, anywhere. – Joel Warner and Jared Jacang Maher

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