Fairchild Air Force Base tried to close the door Wednesday on last year’s twin tragedies by dedicating a memorial to the dead and a park for survivors.
A stone and bronze structure bears the names of those killed when a former airman went on a shooting rampage and when a B-52 crashed just four days later.
“It’s a time to put the terrible events behind us, a time to look to the future,” said Gen. Gary Voellger, commander of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing.
Just more than a year ago, the air base and nearby Spokane were rocked by the separate tragedies that always will be linked in the community’s collective memory.
On June 20, 1994, a recently discharged airman entered the Fairchild hospital complex with a semiautomatic assault rifle. Before he was killed by a base policeman, Dean Mellberg murdered four and wounded 22 people.
One of the wounded, Michelle Sigman, was pregnant and later lost the baby she was carrying.
The names of Taylor McKenzie Sigman, Maj. Thomas Brigham, Capt. Alan London, Christin Francis McCarron and Anita Lindner rest on one plaque.
Next to their names, on a second plaque, are the names of four aviators killed when Fairchild’s last B-52 crashed during practice for an air show.
Lt. Col. Arthur “Bud” Holland, Lt. Col. Mark McGeehan, Lt. Col. Kenneth Huston and Col. Robert Wolf died when the giant bomber stalled in a tight turn around the base control tower.
Both incidents have been the subject of intense investigations, first by the Air Force and more recently by the Pentagon.
But Wednesday wasn’t a day for fingerpointing. It was a day for healing and remembering.
The vocal group The Master’s Reflection - whose members included Huston before the plane crash - sang “God Bless the USA.”
After a brief ceremony, family members of those who were killed hugged and shed tears with those still recovering from their wounds.
Five-year-old Candice Lindner knelt in front of the monument and traced the name of her late mother on a plaque’s raised letters.
The stone monument and bronze plaques are for the dead, but the nearby trees will grow as a living memorial to the survivors, Voellger said.
In memory of McCarron, who was 8, the memorial includes a nearby playground.
Kathy London, the wife of slain psychologist Alan London, said the monument and the service were a nice gesture from the base to the survivors.
But London said she needs more time to heal and believes other victims will too.
“But for the base itself, and the people that work there, it was definitely necessary,” she said of Wednesday’s service “They need it to get back that sense of camaraderie and morale.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
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