Archive for Monday, October 8, 2001

All quiet near B-2 bomber’s home

October 8, 2001


— It was business as usual Sunday in this town bordering Whiteman Air Force Base the home of the B-2 stealth bombers used in the attacks on Afghanistan.

Residents went to church, lunched at local cafes, watched football in taverns while only occasionally discussing the bombings delivered half way around the world by planes based close to home.

A B-2 bomber from Whiteman Air Force Base takes to the air as flags
fly over the cemetery in Knob Noster, Mo. On Sunday, B-2s from
Whiteman were part of the initial attacks on Afghanistan.

A B-2 bomber from Whiteman Air Force Base takes to the air as flags fly over the cemetery in Knob Noster, Mo. On Sunday, B-2s from Whiteman were part of the initial attacks on Afghanistan.

Base spokesman Capt. Brett Ashworth said the base, which is off-limits to reporters, remains in a heightened state of security adopted after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

"The mood here today is no different than if you would visit on any other day," Ashworth said.

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said 15 land-based bombers, including B-2s from Whiteman, were used Sunday in strikes against terror cells in Afghanistan and its ruling Taliban militia.

The base's 21 B-2s were first used in combat in Kosovo. The Air Force then would not confirm the bombers' deployments until they had completed their 30-hour round trips and were back at Whiteman.

Noisy night

Knob Noster is about 60 miles southeast of Kansas City. At the Panther Steak House there, the regular customers arrived for lunch at about the time the bombing began. The dining room TV was tuned to the news, and the cook was working despite a rough night of sleep.

Planes "kept going and going last night," said Saturn Elod, who lives right next to the base. "I cannot count them. I had to take Nyquil to go to sleep."

Elod, from the tiny Pacific-island nation of Palau, said her house shakes when the stealth bombers take off. The 37-year-old said she is afraid of terrorist retribution living so close to the base.

"But then again, I don't really think about it," she said. "If they were going to do something, I'd be the first to disappear. But you have to go sometime."

A handful of patrons sat by the bar at Patrick's Restaurant, said owner Jerry Kruse. The bar's two TV sets were split between football games and the news.

Kruse said his customers were not talking much about the bombings. A former Airmen, he said he supports the decisions U.S. leaders have made in the fight against terrorism.

"Something's got to be done about it," Kruse said. "I'll back them on it 100 percent. They have 100 times more information than I'll ever have."

Business was strolling at its normal Sunday pace at Spiker's Pizza and Pub Sunday, said manager Ashley Epperson. The pub's TV was locked on football.

The 17-year-old's father, Sgt. William Epperson, loads bombs on B-2s at the base. She said he's been "pretty quiet" about what his planes have been up to.

Church services

Regular Sunday evening services were held at Calvary Baptist Church, less than a mile north of a gate at Whiteman, where the red lights of the base's runway are visible across the field from the base's front doors.

About half of the church's 150-person congregation are active duty military, and many of the rest are retired military.

"From a personal perspective, I felt it was time for something to happen," said Master Sgt. Al Vencill, an electronics technician in the Air Force, as he emerged from the church into the chilly, autumn air.

"It was time to execute something, and I definitely trust our U.S. leadership on this."

Another church member, Tim Caudill, 26, of Knob Noster, a systems analyst reservist who worked on the B-2 during the Kosovo operation, said it is still odd to see the bat-winged shaped bomber training in the skies over rural Missouri.

"There is much more to that plane than any of us know," said Caudill, who has been called to active duty. "It's a comforting feeling to pull into church and see those red runway lights where the B-2 comes in."

Eileen Merrick, wife of the church's pastor, was running the nursery downstairs during the service, keeping up with a half dozen toddlers. She said the close-knit community is saying prayers for those on active duty.

"Families here are very patriotic and we stand with our military as one," she said.

Most people in the area thought it was merely an eventuality for the B-2s to be called upon.

"It's awesome to see," said Daniel French, 43, a civilian who lives in nearby Cole Camp. "The B-2 is one way God has blessed our country and it's one way God protects us and we love to see it."

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