On Sept. 8, a Mississippi state flag that flew over the Capitol in Jackson will join flags from the entire nation in a New York ceremony to honor the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The pilots who will fly it there are Frank and Kaki Ingels of Starkville.
"I feel that it's an honor to go and be there to honor the many families, police and firefighters and also the people who worked so hard and survived,'' said Frank Ingels about their opportunity to participate in the "Flight Across America'' event.
"Getting the flag wouldn't have been possible without the help of Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck and our legislators in Jackson who took time out of their busy schedules to help us get this special flag.
"Our state flag will be the only one to have flown over the state Fire Academy and the Capitol,'' said Frank. "They have provided the mail for us - we are just delivering it for them.''
Frank Ingels, who retired in 1995 as a pilot for the athletic department and the Raspetl Flight Laboratory at Mississippi State University, and Kaki will fly to New York in their 1963 Beach Bonanza airplane from George M. Bryan Field in Starkville on Sept. 5.
On Sept. 8, the Ingels will fly, with the state flag aboard, in a loose parade of planes down the Hudson River, past Ground Zero and the Statue of Liberty. Later that day, the official flags from 49 other states and the District of Columbia will be presented in a ceremony aboard the USS Intrepid, a floating aircraft carrier museum docked on the Hudson River.
"The flags will be presented to the city of New York as a show of solidarity and support from all 50 states to New York City. They decided to have the ceremony on the Sunday before so it would not interfere with other memorials in the city,'' Kaki said.
The Ingels said the help of state officials was instrumental in getting the idea off the ground.
"Bill Warren of the state Fire Academy called Tuck's office when he found out about this and offered the flag,'' said Frank. "He was overjoyed that there was a way to transport it as well.''
Security at the event will be very tight in New York that weekend; if the Ingels don't arrive at Essex County Airport in Caldwell, N.J., by Sept. 7, they cannot participate. Even with all the extra precautions, Kaki is a little nervous about the trip.
"I'm not too crazy about being up there in case something happens, said Kaki, who is 56 and the grandmother of five.
"If we get grounded, I would much rather be home in Starkville.'' Tom Stennis, chairman of the Starkville Airport Authority board, said he found out from other pilots last week that the Ingels were participating in the program.
"I think we have as good representatives for the state as we could get from anywhere,'' said Stennis.
Kaki said that they were attending an Oshkosh, Wis., air show this summer when they heard about the program from a fellow pilot and saw a list of states that did not have a flag bearer yet. Mississippi was one, said Kaki.
"We are both retired and have pretty flexible schedules, so we signed up,'' she said.
When the Ingels returned several days later from a family trip to Destin, Fla., they found out they were selected.
"We had 47 e-mails when we got home and we get more everyday from the organizers, flag bearers from other states, all wanting to talk to us or help,'' Kaki said.
Frank and Kaki, who have been married for 37 years, both have a pilots license and have been flying for many years together. While in New York, the couple said they will also visit the youngest son out of six children: Brian Ingels and his fiancee, Melinda Underwood of Starkville.
"They are thrilled that we are coming up and are taking part in this,'' said Kaki.
"Brian was on his way to work on the subway from Brooklyn to Manhattan when someone called him on his cell phone to tell him an airplane had hit one of the Twin Towers,'' said Frank, who is 65. "When he turned around to go home, he saw the second plane hit.''
Flight Across America is an effort to inspire the nation and honor the victims of 9-11 by reinvigorating the spirit of aviation and bringing the country together. According to the Flight across America Web site, 487 airports will participate in the program that began Aug. 11.