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Hoosiers who protected the skies on 9/11 reflect on the attacks 20 years later

Indiana 9/11 Memorial
Posted at 7:19 AM, Sep 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-10 07:39:10-04

INDIANAPOLIS — All eyes focused on the air on Sept. 11, 2001, and people in charge of the airspace in Indiana played a critical role.

Now 20 years after the attack, crews are expanding the Indiana 9/11 Memorial and Hoosiers like Stewart Goodwin are finally sharing their 9/11 stories.

Goodwin is the executive director for the Indiana War Memorial Commission and a veteran who served in the military for 37 years.

“Hoosier jets were flying that day," he said. "I was the chief of staff of the headquarters of the Indiana Air National Guard. We had two F-16 wings, one in Terre Haute, one in Fort Wayne.”

At the time of the attacks on the twin towers, former President George Bush, was in Florida and he needed safe air space to eventually return to Washington, D.C. on Air Force One.

“So the two jets that we had in Chicago, they came down and they escorted him back to Washington DC,” Goodwin said.

In his role with the Indiana Air National Guard, Goodwin faced a call to duty.

“I had a very small part in that, but the fact of the matter is it took the whole team to make it happen,” he said.

From the military decisions to the control room at the Indianapolis International Airport, civilian planes needed to land immediately.

So, when Kevin Brown arrived at work at air traffic control, he knew that nearly 5,000 airplanes were in the skies across the U.S and they couldn’t stay there.

“Indianapolis actually had more diversion airplanes than any other airport in the country, so we were a prime target for all of the airborne inventory that just happened to be directly above,” Brown said.

His boss at the time told him they had to land close to 200 planes.

“We had never done that before, we had never practiced it,” Brown said.

Tension hovered in the air and with pilots in the cockpit.

"And I’m telling (the pilots), look, you better find the fuel dump button, captain, because you’re coming here or you’re going to get intercepted," Brown said.

Brown said they ran out of airplanes to land, just before they ran out of concrete space to park them.

“I have a physical dread of 9/11. I literally dread that day,” Brown said. “I’m proud to speak on behalf of the controllers that were there, but I also recognize that everybody’s got their story, and everybody played a role.”

Now on this week of remembrance, for the lives stolen on 9/11, those who controlled the air somberly reflect and re-build the memorial dedicated to those who served when our country needed them most.

“To think the battle will come to us on our land with something that made it even more surreal,” Goodwin said.

Now the re-dedication at the Indiana 9/11 Memorial will be 1:30-3:30 p.m. Saturday at the site of the memorial on West Ohio Street in Downtown Indianapolis.

The space will expand to 30 feet-by-10 feet. Here’s a preview of some of the new elements that are a part of the re-dedication.

The re-dedicated memorial site will have a new 800-pound piece of limestone that looks like the state of Indiana and comes from the wall of the Pentagon where the jet hit.

A wall dedicated to police, fire and emergency medical services will now have a spot for military service members who died from cancer related to their service during the 9/11 attacks.

The country and state flags will now be flown at the memorial.

Plus, a tree will be planted. It’s named the "survivor tree" because it’s the only one that survived at Ground Zero and was rejuvenated and one of its saplings was distributed here.


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