9/11 Vigil: standing strong

  • Published
  • By Darren D. Heusel
  • Tinker Public Affairs
The events of Sept. 11, 2001, bring back memories for most, if not all, Americans. But the senseless terrorist attacks on the twin towers in New York City, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania that claimed more than 3,000 lives also sent shock waves around the world.

At Tinker Air Force Base, Airmen have chosen to honor those who lost their lives by standing vigil at the flag pole located at the base's Wright Flyer Memorial Park just south of the Exchange.

The Airmen, who included uniformed service members and civilians, stood vigil in 30-minute shifts, beginning at 7:46 a.m. when the first plane hit one of the twin towers and lasting until 7:15 p.m.

Among those who stood vigil on this day were four Canadians assigned to the 552nd Air Control Wing at Tinker.

Warrant Officer Jason Verge, a Canadian airborne radar technician assigned to the 964th Airborne Air Control Squadron as the D Flight chief, was stationed at Peterson AFB, Colo., in 2001 and remembers the day clearly as if it happened only yesterday.
"I was at the gym when breaking news came out on CNN," Warrant Officer Verge said. "(The station) was showing the aftermath of the first plane that hit the World Trade Center."

Warrant Officer Verge said he remembers the horror of watching everything unfold on live TV, seeing another plane hit the second tower, another hit the Pentagon and the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.

"The most shocking moment of disbelief for everyone in the room was seeing the eventual twin tower collapse, thousands of innocent people lost to the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil," he said.

Warrant Officer Verge said he volunteered to be part of the vigil this year to remember not only the attacks, but the people killed on 9/11, "from the brave uniformed policemen and firefighters who died trying to save others in the twin towers, to the men, women and children trapped in the twin towers and those helpless souls on the plane."

"The entire world was affected as numerous countries had lost citizens on that tragic day and it will not be forgotten," Warrant Officer Verge added.

The other Canadians participating in the vigil included Warrant Officer Jamie McDonagh from the 960th AACS, and Warrant Officer Robert McKendry and Master Corporal Jesse Sorensen, both with the 963rd AACS.

Tinker senior leaders including Col. Jay Bickley, 552nd ACW commander, Col. Stephen Wood, 72nd Air Base Wing vice commander, Chief Master Sgt. Jackie Green, 966th AACS, and Chief Master Sgt. Shirley Jones, 72nd Mission Support Group, stood guard on the first shift.

The vigil also included key spouses from the 552nd Operations Group as well as members of the Tinker Officer's Spouses Club, including Judy Kirkland, wife of Brig. Gen. Gene Kirkland, Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex commander; Jennifer Azzano, wife of Col. Chris Azzano, 72nd ABW commander; Karla Bickley, wife of Colonel Bickley; and Ronda Christian, wife of Col. Mike Christian, former commander of the 76th Commodities Maintenance Group, OC-ALC.

Senior Master Sgt. Andre Locust, a member of the 552nd Air Control Networking Squadron, volunteered to organize this year's event and said it was an honor to do so.
"I did a 9/11 stair climb last year at the SNCO academy and I wanted to do something here at Tinker this year," Sergeant Locust said. "The way we show our honor here is with the vigil, so I wanted to be involved."

A native of New York, Sergeant Locust said he definitely has ties to 9/11, adding the vigil at Tinker is about the totality of the event and how Americans and military members come together to show honor and respect to the victims and their families.

"It's also a way to show those who would do us harm that we remain vigilant and steadfast in our resolve to protect our citizens and our interests here at home and abroad," he said.