Oskaloosa Remembers 9/11 With Tribute

A Musco light truck once again has the Ground Zero flag flying over Oskaloosa for the 20th Anniversary of September 11th.

A Musco light truck once again has the Ground Zero flag flying over Oskaloosa for the 20th Anniversary of September 11th.

Oskaloosa, Iowa – On the east side of the Oskaloosa Square flew a flag that once witnessed tragedy on a national scale.

That US flag flew from a Musco light truck as first responders and others worked to recover the remains of their fallen from Ground Zero.

The flag shows the soot, holes, and stress from flying for nearly 250 days.

With the wind just right, you can still smell the smoke from the fires that burned there.

On the lawn of the square was a flag for each person killed that September day, and local first responders and others stood watch over the memorial 24 hours a day for three days.

Oskaloosa High School student council members, sixty in all, helped to place those individual flags, just as the student council of ten years ago did.

Oskaloosa Student Council advisor Kim Gile said that the students were humbled by “being able to put something together that shows the impact” of that day.

Those students weren’t alive when the attacks of 9/11 took place and aren’t familiar with the way life was before that day, but Gile says they understand why there are the safety measures in place now because of it.

Oskaloosa Fire Chief Jeff Swanson spoke about the memorial. Many of the flags on display represented a fellow firefighter lost that day.

Swanson said he believes the events are good to “never forget what happened that day.”

Looking at the memorial, Swanson said he had goosebumps seeing all the flags representing a life lost. “We have several Christmas ornaments with firefighter’s names inscribed that lost their lives that day. And every Christmas, I think as I’m putting that ornament on the tree, that family is no longer whole because of that day, and it touches me to my core.”

William Penn students helped to retrieve the flags as the display came down on Sunday, September 12th.

Frank Kminek shares with people at the 20th Anniversary of 9/11 memorial on the Oskaloosa Square.

Frank Kminek shares with people at the 20th Anniversary of 9/11 memorial on the Oskaloosa Square.

A Personal Story

On the square during the memorial, Frank Kminek was helping a group of scouts understand more about something that happened before they were born.

“They don’t know anything about what it was like to live that day,” explained Kminek. “When they look out, and they see a flag for each person who died, and it starts to mean something.”

Kminek was also a committee member that helped plan and implement this year’s memorial to 9/11.

The Musco light truck, where the flag flew from its mast for months, was stained with the dust and smoke from the World Trade Center rubble as team members provided light to Ground Zero.

“So Oskaloosa and Mahaska County, they’ve got some unique connections to this,” added Kminek.

But the ceremony has special meaning for Kminek, as his sister, Mari-Rae Sopper, was lost that day when American Airlines Flight 77 was crashed into the Pentagon, a place she had once worked.

Looking forward to starting her new position as the UC Santa Barbara women’s gymnastics head coach and was on the plane that morning from Washington D.C. to begin her new career.

Asked if he had picked a flag out that would represent his sister amongst the nearly 3000 flags placed on the square, Kminek said, “No, absolutely not. I don’t.”

Kminek remembers that day and was into work early in Oskaloosa and had no idea anything was going on.

People were coming in, and they were talking about the planes, and a small plane hit the World Trade Center, remembers Kminek, who then went into a small room and was watching live when the second plane hit. “And then everybody knew something was happening.”

Back at their desks, Kminek overheard someone say they believed that the Pentagon had been bombed. “People didn’t even know it was a plane at first.”

“Then the fourth plane went down, and I think everybody was just in shock. Nobody was focused. Nobody really knew what to do or what was going on, and then my mother called,” Kminek remembers.

“She said, you know, today’s the day your sister’s moving. I didn’t know about it, and I said, well, what airport did she fly out when she said [she] flew out of Dulles. And I said, do you know how many planes fly out in Dulles on a single day. What are the odds that she’d be on a plane that was one of these four, and it turned out she was.”

“I just told you a story, and there’s almost 3000 other stories here,” Kminek added. “One of the things I’ve kind of challenged myself to do in the last few years is to think of 9/11 not just as the day that my sister died, but as the day that almost 3000 people died.”

Over time, more stories about those killed that day start to surface, “and now, with the 20th anniversary, you see more and more about what other families have gone through, and who those people were, and you’re not just as focused on your own part of it.”

On October 11, 2001, all of the victims’ families at the Pentagon were invited back to a memorial service, where President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and President Clinton spoke.

Mari-Rae Sopper was laid to rest that same weekend at Arlington National Cemetery, with the Pentagon visible in the distance.

Kminek was asking those in attendance to do something nice for someone. “September 11 was declared a Day of Service, and we’re encouraging people to do that.”

“Doing our best to turn this into something positive,” said Kminik as the interview came to a close.

Posted by on Sep 15 2021. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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