Thunder of Niagara Air Show

“On the evening of September 11, 2001 and
the days following, the skies of our nation were silent except for the sounds
of military aircraft of the United States. In Western New York, we could hear
the engines of the KC-135 tankers and C-130 Hercules from the Niagara Falls Air
Reserve Base as they launched on their missions to assist in protecting our
nation from further attack.  The following day many Western New York
firefighters, police and military left their homes in Western New York to assist
in the search and rescue in the City of New York.”
(Niagara Air Reserve
Station Website)

 

 

On the weekend of September 10-11, 2011, the Thunder of
Niagara Air Show at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station will remember those
who lost their lives on 9/11, those who served, and honor those who continue to
protect us today. 

 

For more than 16 months, the planners of the anniversary
occasion, which included dozens of individuals and community organizations,
worked to identify a FREE event that could allow maximum
participation from the entire Western New York community.  This anniversary year, in partnership with
these community organizations, the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is holding
a remembrance air show to commemorate the losses on September 11, 2001 and
honor the service and sacrifices of those who have responded since that
day.  Prior to the air show itself, military
personnel as well as members of the first response community will participate
in a ceremony honoring their service to America.  In addition, the program will pay special
tribute to the voluntary organizations that have worked to assist individuals
and families affected by 9/11 and any related events that have transpired
since.  Volunteer organizations being
honored include:

 

Patriot Guard
Riders
are an all-volunteer group of motorcycle riders who attend funerals
to recognize and honor the sacrifices of fallen service members as well as
their loved ones.

 

WNY Heroes is
an all-volunteer organization that works to address substantial gaps in
post-combat care to enable veterans and their families to regain stability and
health in their personal and professional lives. 

 

Disabled American
Veterans
is dedicated to one, single purpose: building better lives for our
nation’s disabled veterans and their families. 
The DAV Flight Team will be participating as part of the air show.

 

Wounded Warriors
Project
works to raise awareness and enlist the public’s support toward the
needs of injured service members and to provide unique, direct programming and
services to wounded veterans.

 

Expecting more than 100,000
people to attend the air show, its success is almost fully dependent on a small
army of volunteers.   It is estimated that up to 500 individuals
will rekindle the spirit of community and compassion demonstrated on 9/11/01 by
serving as volunteers.  Organizations
providing volunteers include the United Way, Boys and Girls Scouts, Medical
Reserve Corps, Civil Air Patrol, NIMAC (Niagara Military Affairs Council) and
SEMO (State Emergency Management Office). 
 Volunteer fire companies
throughout Niagara County will be participating in the program as part of the
ceremony, but they will also be staging on the base to provide fire response
services in the event of an emergency. 
Air base personnel will maintain a master list of all volunteers and
will provide their names, email addresses and telephone numbers.  This list will be cross-referenced with the
internal lists maintained by the participating organizations.

 

As part of a consortium of
partners, Niagara University will be participating in the following ways:  The University’s Border Community SERVICE
program (started in 2005 through a grant from the Corporation for National and
Community Service) will be providing CERT (Community Emergency Response Team)
volunteers to assist with set-up and take-down, parking,
security, lost and found, information kiosks, trash pick-up, and water/food
provisions.  NU students who themselves
are prior military members will also be assisting in the operations portion of
the event.  Additional students,
including members of the ROTC program, will volunteer in different capacities
to make the event a success. 

 

Consistent with ensuring the legacy of the 9/11 Day of
Service initiative into the future is an obligation to educate and inform
future generations about the events of September 11, 2001, the intensity of the
attacks and the profound manner in which the nation responded as one
community.  Today’s college-age students
were young children on that day, and while they are familiar indeed with the
images of what occurred, they were too young to feel or fully appreciate the
sense of vulnerability and terror that was experienced by most Americans nor
the ensuing spirit of compassion that swept the nation in the days that
followed.  Accordingly, an important
component of the 9/11 Remembrance will be a campus-wide educational program on
the Thursday evening leading up to the air show.

 

How
does the service activity address a community need?

 

The air show is an important reminder
to the community that the air base is essential not only to our national
defense but also as an economic engine for the region.  The largest employer in Niagara County, the base has an
economic impact of more than $165 million dollars annually.  It is important to know
that in 2005 the US DOD initiated its Base Realignment and Closure
(BRAC) Commission.  The Commission
recommended closing 33 major United Stated military bases including the Niagara
Falls air base.  Community reaction to
this proposal was swift and comprehensive, and an unprecedented grassroots response was mobilized by various community-based
organizations, resulting in more than 125,000 letters being sent to the BRAC
Commission, the most collected for any base in the nation.  Their
efforts were rewarded in August 2005, when the BRAC Commission voted to remove
the Niagara Falls air base from the closure list, one of only a handful that
were not closed. 
Similar to the spirit of compassion, unity and service demonstrated in
2005, the decision to mobilize an entire community around one remembrance event
was purposeful and consistent with a spirit of volunteerism that defines the
WNY region.