This year’s Wichita observation of 9/11 was a mix of patriotism and symbols.
White doves circled around a monument to fallen firefighters in a blue sky, a bagpipe played “Amazing Grace,” and area firefighters and law enforcement officers stood at attention while American flags fluttered in the wind.
Fewer than 40 people attended, in stark contrast to the vast numbers who came out for similar observations in the first few years after the East Coast terrorist attacks.
“I thought there would be a lot more,” Linda Smith said after the service. “Those firefighters were just doing their job. It could have been anybody. My boyfriend is a volunteer here, and this day is important to him and me.”
The 30-minute ceremony at 10 a.m. Tuesday was part of a simultaneous nationwide observance. Wichita’s ceremony was held at the Kansas Firefighters Museum at the Fallen Firefighters Memorial plaza, 1300 S. Broadway.
It started with the sounds of boots marching and the posting of colors by students from Hamilton Middle School. The South High School Madrigals sang “The Star Spangled Banner.”
The ceremony on Tuesday marked the third time a Patriot Day observation has been held at the firefighters museum.
“God of all races, nations and religions, we know we can’t change the past but we can change ourselves. We shall join you in changing us in the world,” said David D. Wilson of the Kansas Firefighters Museum in a prayer.
Later Wilson said that although it has been 11 years since the 9/11 tragedy, “I don’t think us firefighters or civilians go through a day without thinking of what happened in those tragic days.”
“It is because of our first-line responders and their sacrifices they make each day that we are here,” said Dottie Conboy, a member of White Wings Over America and whose doves were released. “I am one of many persons participating today in White Wings Over America. Each dove represents approximately 37 souls lost. But this is just one city, one state you are witnessing. … We are releasing close to 5,000 white doves to honor the heroes of 9/11.”
While a bagpipe played, 80 doves were released. The white birds circled for several minutes before flying back to Conboy’s home, about 10 miles from the museum.
“As professionals and hobbyists, we pay tribute to those who paid the ultimate price during 9/11,” Conboy said. “Many were unsuspecting victims. Others were brave service organization members that sacrificed lives while trying to rescue others. … Our mission is to fill the skies with angels of white.”