A memorial ceremony at Fairchild Air Force Base on Thursday afternoon commemorated the 25th anniversary of the base’s “darkest hours.” In one week in June 1994, a mass shooting and a plane crash took nine lives.
“It is altogether good that we gather here to remember,” said Col. Derek Salmi, commander of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing. “For along with what we have lost, we also remember the countless acts of tremendous courage that these two events evoked.”
Two guest speakers addressed a group of about 40 airmen and civilians at Memorial Grove.
Barbara Thompson worked in the 92nd Medical Group on the day five were killed and 22 wounded at the Fairchild hospital complex by a former airman with a semi-automatic rifle. Maj. Thomas Brigham, M.D.; Capt. Alan London, Ph.D.; Christin McCarron; Anita Lindner; and the unborn child of Michelle Sigmon were all killed.
Thompson remembered courageous acts like those of Andy Brown, the military policeman who shot the gunman, Dean Mellberg, as well as survivors who triaged the wounded and first responders who came to the scene.
“They will be heroes to me forever,” she said.
Speaker Terry Fossum was executive officer of the 92nd Operations Group when both tragedies occurred. He knew all four officers who died aboard the B-52 bomber “Czar 52” when it crashed while practicing for an upcoming air show.
“Everybody needs to remember that every single military member is putting their life on the line every single day,” Fossum said. “They don’t have to be deployed to a war zone.”
An investigation of the crash determined the plane’s pilot, Lt. Col. Arthur “Bud” Holland, was performing dangerous maneuvers that weren’t properly approved. Lt. Col. Ken Huston and Col. Robert Wolff were also aboard, while Lt. Col. Mark McGeehan took the place of other airmen who were scared to co-pilot for Holland.
“Mark McGeehan is the hero of ‘Czar 52,’ ” Fossum said. “… Mark took their place. In doing so, he saved a squadron member’s life. He did what every hero does.”
Rande Lindner, the husband of shooting victim Anita Lindner, attended the ceremony. He had to close the youth retreat facility he and his wife operated shortly after she died. But, he was proud to say Camp CoMiA has since reopened.
“It’s important to remember those who are here and those who are gone,” he said.
After the speeches, three survivors of the hospital shooting – Lana Jones, Brenda Traylor and Leonard Crume – laid a wreath at the memorial in remembrance of those who were killed.
Traylor said she looks back on that day of the shooting “with heartbreak but with pride, as well,” because of the actions of the Fairchild community.
“For my family, it did end up a blessed day, because I did come home,” she said. “But so many others didn’t.”