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More than 45 planes, heli­copters, and other air­craft from across the state filled the runways of the Hillsdale Municipal Airport on Sunday, Sept. 11 for the annual Airport Fly-In spon­sored by the Hillsdale Exchange Club.

“We typ­i­cally do the fly-in during the summer,” Airport manager Jason Walters said. “We looked at a lot of dates to make this work in Sep­tember and thought about Patriot’s Day, observed on Sept. 11. It’s a solemn day, a day for remem­bering, but we also thought we should cel­e­brate how America has fought, grown, and that we can cel­e­brate our patri­otism. That’s what today is all about.”

The Hillsdale Airport has held a fly-in day every summer for the past 25 years, but this is the first time they’ve ever held it on Sep­tember 11 to honor the victims of the 2001 ter­rorist attacks. More than 250 people attended the event.

Walters said months of planning brought together the rows of antique cars, service vehicles from the Hillsdale fire and police depart­ments, a full course breakfast, and air­plane and heli­copter rides for the six-hour event.

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“It’s been a great day. It was actually my grandson’s first time ever in an air­plane,” Hillsdale res­ident Robert Bostain said. “It’s a lot of fes­tiv­ities and it’s great to show that we aren’t afraid. This is inspiring.”

In addition to crowds of vet­erans, active members of the United States Army and the Michigan National Guard were also at the airport. Sol­diers were recruiting, sharing their mil­itary expe­ri­ences, and taking pic­tures with kids.

“9/11 has had a big impact on me,” Lt. Mejeur said after breaking away from a photo with sol­diers in his unit. “That’s what made me want to join after college. It’s why I want to con­tinue to serve and to give back to our country — to stop things like what hap­pened that day from hap­pening.”

The Michigan National Guard stole the show when they flew in the “Chinook” Boeing CH-47, a 50,000 pound heli­copter. According to sergeant first class Michael Engel, the “Chinook” is used for a wide variety of mil­itary oper­a­tions, ranging from car­rying troops into battle to trans­porting mil­itary vehicles and sup­plies.

Admission to the event was free, but revenue gen­erated from t-shirts, the pancake breakfast, and heli­copter and air­plane rides will go directly to the troops them­selves.

“The Hillsdale Exchange Club will raise about $3,000 to $4,000 to help our vet­erans from this event,” Exchange Club Pres­ident Danielle Boyd said. “It’s great that we can get the com­munity behind this cause.”

Members of the fire department also set up their fire engines among the col­orful rows of antique “rocket red Chevy Corvettes” and “baby blue Oldsmobile Cut­lasses” cars on display in the parking lot.

Among the crowds of active res­i­dents eagerly rushing from one attraction to the next, the group of firemen were silent, quietly observing the fes­tiv­ities.

When the Twin Towers col­lapsed 16 years ago on Sep­tember 11, 343 fire­fighters died instantly. While the time passes on, and many guests said they don’t feel like they need to be afraid anymore, members of the fire department said they will simply not forget.

“This day is a tribute, a reminder,” Captain of the Hillsdale Fire Department Terry McVay said, as he held back tears. “As people are cel­e­brating, I want them to know that I’m here to support the people and everyone around us.”

As the 50,000 pound US Army “Chinook” heli­copter took off the Hillsdale runway, the wind from the two sets of 60-foot pro­pellers pushed off atten­dants’ sun­glasses and pulled open jackets. But the fireman’s jacket and helmet, sitting softly on the chain link fence nearby didn’t budge.

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Thomas Novelly
Collegian Editor-in-Chief, Thomas Novelly was born in Novi, Michigan, but was raised in Franklin, Tennessee, making him a self-proclaimed "Yankee gone South." Thomas began writing for The Collegian as a sophomore, and since has served as a reporter, columnist, and Assistant City News Editor. He has also worked for two major publications, interning at the Washington Free Beacon in D.C. and The Tennessean in Nashville. His work has been seen in National publications such as CBS News, National Review Online, Stars And Stripes, and USA Today. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.