This Saturday, three large Minnesota events will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks with flyovers featuring F-16 fighter aircraft.
Planes from the Minnesota Air National Guard’s 148th Fighter Wing are scheduled to make appearances over St. Paul, Duluth, and Minneapolis.
Four F-16s will do a Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs 9/11 morning flyover of the state capitol. “Our planned flyover time is 9:20 a.m.,” said Lt. Col (Ret.) Audra Flanagan, who served as a second lieutenant with the Wing 20 years ago.
Later on Saturday, another four F-16s will take to the skies from the Wing’s Duluth base and head to a flyover of the University of Minnesota – Duluth and Minnesota State University- Mankato military appreciation game that has a 6:05 p.m. start.
Finally, aircraft from the 148th Fighter Wing will head to the Twin Cities to complete a 6 p.m. flyover of the Minnesota Twins-Kansas City Royals game at Target Field.
Flanagan also collaborated with her colleagues at the Minnesota National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters – Public Affairs regarding a 9/11 documentary and commemorative social media posts featured on the 148th Wing’s Facebook page.
“It was clear 9/11 touched people at a deep level,” Flanagan said. She was working at United Health Care in Duluth 20 years ago when hijacked aircraft hit the World Trade Center Towers in New York City. “I remember being shocked and scared.”
Her military position was very similar to working in a human resources office.
“We activated 500 personnel, which was the most the 148th Fighter Wing had ever activated,” she said. “We sent personnel to Minneapolis, Langley Air Force Base, and Tyndall Air Force Base to support around the clock combat air patrol missions.”
Flanagan said the Sept. 11 attacks, the work of 148th Fighter Wing members and the administrative actions required for that deployment were unprecedented. Her spouse, Senior Master Sgt. Glen Flanagan, worked on F-16 avionics on 9/11.
Immediately after 9/11, the 148th Fighter Wing was placed on 24/7 alert status.
Its F-16s in Duluth and Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida provided around the clock combat air patrols over major parts of the Southeast and Midwest U.S.
And in months that followed the attacks, the 148th worked from the Minnesota National Guard History Museum and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
The Wing provided aircraft on immediate alert for the North American Aerospace Defense Command to defend against possible direct threats to the Twin Cities, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, and St. Louis, flying more than 650 missions.
In December 2001, the 148th was ordered to position eight F-16s, pilots, and support personnel at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia to fly combat air patrols over the White House and the regional around the U.S. Capitol for 90 days.
Flanagan served in the Minnesota National Guard from 1991 to 2015. “I’m so proud of all 148th Wing members and all who served during that time” she said.
Editor’s Note: Tim Hennagir is the managing editor of Minnesota Flyer magazine.