Most fans are excited to leave an Airshow with a t-shirt, cap, autographed poster or an aviation souvenir of some sort. But who would have thought that a thrilling day at the Airshow could evoke such great emotion and thousands of fans would leave clutching a rose petal as their special keepsake? On September 11, 2011, the California Capital Airshow (CCA) hosted a special tribute in honor of the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, wrapping up an exciting day of performances. Attendees literally ran toward the flight line when Tora!, Tora!, Tora! took the field and were captivated by the F-15E Strike Eagle, USAF Heritage Flight, F-18 Super Hornet and Legacy Flight, Patriots six-ship jet demonstration, Patty Wagstaff, Tim Decker, Shockwave Jet Truck, Otto-the-helicopter, Greg Colyer and the T-33 Shooting Star, and so much more… but the US Coast Guard C-130 Hercules releasing a mile of colorful flower petals falling gently across the runway towards the crowd was simply awe-inspiring and breathtaking – you could hear a pin drop as the flowers began to gently float through the sky towards their final destination.
This enormous flower drop was followed by a Missing Man formation, which included a P-38 Lightning, P-40 Warhawk, two P-51 Mustangs, a F6 Hellcat and a F8 Bearcat, all led by Steve Hinton. The choreography was beautiful and ‘Taps’ and ‘Amazing Grace’ could be heard for miles on Air Show One’s premium sound equipment. Well-known Airshow announcer, Rob Reider, planned far in advance for this unforgettable memorial and we are proud to share his words:
Today we remember the victims who died in the extremist terrorist attack 10 years ago. More than that we honor those who gave their lives trying to save others. And most of all we remember those million and more Americans who have given their very lives for freedom.
For some this 10th anniversary is a day of pain – because of the loss of a loved one. For some it is a day of vivid memories of a horrible tragedy. For others it is a day to remember the honor, courage, and commitment to an ideal that formed the foundation of our country – freedom.
An iceberg, with all its grandeur and beauty, is only about 10% visible. We forget about the 90% that is hidden underwater. The same seems to have become of our freedom. Our way of life is so easy. We have instant communications with our friends, families, and loved ones. We have unlimited supplies and choices of food. We have more TV channels than we have hours in a week. And regrettably, we have worshipped our lifestyle and forgotten about the immense foundation that, like an iceberg, is out of sight. And that foundation – freedom – has been eroding because we’ve become unwilling to pay the price to protect our freedom. As many have said, “Freedom is not free.” It is purchased at great price.
The “First Responders” in New York and Washington who rushed into those buildings and those aboard United flight 93 who rushed the terrorist hijackers did so knowing that their lives were in peril. Yet they all exhibited amazing courage. Winston Churchill said, “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities…because it is the quality which guarantees all others.”
Having lost a wife of 36 years and a 30-year-old daughter to cancer, I have some sense of the loss of loved ones who died in the 9/11 attack. But my situation was different – I was able to say good-bye to them. Most of those who died that day never got the chance to say good-bye. They were unaware that it was the last day of their lives.
I will never forget the horrific images of the airplanes hitting the Twin Towers. I cannot begin to understand what went through the minds of the people who jumped to their deaths rather than be burned alive so many floors high in the buildings. But beyond that, I don’t know if I would have the courage and commitment to race into those towers or the Pentagon to try to save lives and put out the fires. The “First Responders” – the men and women of the New York City Fire and Police Departments and the Port Authority laid their lives on the line for those trapped in the World Trade Center. Others who worked in the buildings stayed to help those who were unable to get out on their own. I will quote one verse from the Bible – John 15:13 – “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
We mourn the loss of those who perished that day. We honor those who responded to the attack and tragedy. And may we recommit our lives as citizens of the United States to protect and defend freedom so that we, our children, and the generations to come will look back and say, the United States was tested – and found true to preserving the foundation of our great country – Freedom.
May we also honor those in all branches of our military service, the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard who have volunteered to protect our freedom; and who have, in essence, written a blank check of their lives to defend our freedom. May I paraphrase Charles M. Province: “It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate. And it is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who gives the protester the freedom to burn the flag.”
Rob Reider, September 11, 2011 – Sacramento, California
Thank you to US Coast Guard Air Station McClellan, Jim Relles of Relles Florist, Allan Nishita of Flora Fresh and their many floral partners, the CCA management team, the army of dedicated volunteers who work tirelessly, a long list of deeply committed sponsors, and CCA’s devoted board of directors — there wasn’t a dry eye on the ramp. I believe we all walked away from this weekend with a greater knowledge of our nation’s history, a deeper appreciation for our veterans who have served and sacrificed, and a little deeper appreciation for the freedoms that we all enjoy. This is what a great Airshow is all about.
On a personal note, I would like to offer thanks from the bottom of my heart to all of the agencies that helped keep the Airshow secure and without incident, and to Airboss, Ralph Royce, for honoring his promise and ensuring a safe, yet entertaining show.
Executive Director, California Capital Airshow