Planes and parachutes mark 9/11 anniversary

2011-09-11T20:00:00Z 2011-09-16T15:10:34Z Planes and parachutes mark 9/11 anniversaryBy PAIGE CORNWELL / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com
September 11, 2011 8:00 pm  • 

Benjamin Arneberg joined the military because of Sept. 11, 2001.

He was only 11 at the time, but the attacks later motivated him to join the Air Force Academy.

Now a senior at the academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet 1st Class Arneberg is a member of the Wings of Blue, a parachute demonstration team.

On Sunday, Arneberg jumped out of a plane at the Guardians of Freedom Airshow, parachuting in front of tens of thousands of onlookers at Lincoln Air Park.

The Navy's Blue Angels, the event's main attraction, wrapped up the two-day show later in the afternoon. Sunday's attendance estimates topped 100,000. Official numbers are expected Monday.

On Sunday, those on the ground took time to acknowledge the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. On one jump, the Wings of Blue demonstration team parachuted down onto the runway holding flags representing military branches.

"I'm grateful to be able to jump," said Arneberg, 21, who is originally from Chippewa Falls, Wis. "When you look down and see the crowds, and see those thousands of people, it makes you want to try to put on a good show."

Wings of Blue selects about 25 members for its demonstration team. This year, they'll perform at air shows and at least two football games around the nation, Arneberg said.

Part of their demonstration is the "bomb burst," in which the four jumpers open their parachutes together at 5,000 feet. After their second jump of the day, the members packed their parachutes while spectators watched. A young boy asked Arneberg what it was like jumping out of the plane for the first time.

"It was a bit of a leap, but we knew the training would work," Arneberg said as he wrapped parachute lines together. "It took about 30 jumps to not be scared."

Most of the team members will be overseas in the near future. As an engineering student, Arneberg said, he too could end up being deployed.

But on Sunday, the cadet said his favorite part of the day was jumping while holding the American flag.

"To be able to jump on 9/11, with the flag, it's like it's come full circle," he said.

Reach Paige Cornwell at 402-473-7126 or pcornwell@journalstar.com.

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