McConnell honors Sept. 11 dead, fallen soldiers

On the day before the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, hundreds gathered at McConnell Air Force Base to honor those who died.

Col. James Crowhurst, commander of McConnell's 22nd Air Refueling Wing, told those gathered that "we're here to honor the nearly 3,000 Americans who died on that tragic day."

Hundreds of them were first responders, Crowhurst said, to a crowd that included members of the area's first-responder agencies — police, fire, sheriff's and other emergency personnel.

"Additionally, as we honor those fallen citizens, we'll also pay respect to the nearly 5,500 American airmen, soldiers, sailors and Marines who have subsequently lost their lives in overseas contingency operations since that fateful day," Crowhurst said during the base's Patriot Day ceremony.

Across Kansas today, to remember those who died on Sept. 11, 2001, Gov. Mark Parkinson has asked that flags be flown at half-staff from sunup to sundown.

Nationally, President Obama has called for a moment of silence at 8:46 Eastern Standard Time — 7:46 a.m. in Wichita.

At Friday's McConnell ceremony, Crowhurst, the commander, noted other "sacrifices made by those who protect and defend our way of life."

He recalled that just weeks after Patriot Day last year, Sedgwick County sheriff's Deputy Brian Etheridge was fatally shot while responding to a call at a South Rock Road home right across from McConnell.

Crowhurst also noted that Mulvane native Capt. Jason McMahon was recently shot and killed while leading an Army explosive ordnance unit in Afghanistan.

"These heroes comprise one of the essential threads that hold our great nation together," he said.

After he spoke, an official rang a bell —"the last alarm" — in recognition of fallen first responders.

The ceremony also included a 21-gun salute, a bagpipes rendition of "Amazing Grace" and a flyover by a KC-135 tanker.