Group Commemorates 10-Year Anniversary of Meigs Destruction
Meigs supporters stand on a large yellow ribbon placed outside the Meigs Field terminal during Easter Sunday's Meigs tribute. (Photo by Lee Hogan, Courtesy Friends of Meigs Field)
Missing man formation over Meigs Field by members of the Chicago DODO Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen. (Photo by Don Van Cura Sr., Courtesy Friends of Meigs Field)
April 1, 2013 - On Easter Sunday, dozens of people gathered at the site of Chicago's former lakefront airport Meigs Field on the 10th anniversary of its illegal overnight destruction ordered by former Mayor Richard M. Daley March 30-31, 2003. The group unfurled a large yellow ribbon in front of the old Meigs terminal building as four planes made several passes concluding with a missing man formation.
Steve Whitney, founder of the Friends of Meigs Field, who helped organize the tribute, said he was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic turnout. "My worry, being Easter Sunday, was that we wouldn't have that many people show up," he said. But nearly 30 people came out to Northerly Island, whose terminal building and tower are the only remnants of the former beloved airport.
The flyover was also questionable because of the weather, but the pilots were able to take off and perform the symbolic flight in sustained 20-knot winds. Volunteer pilots from the Chicago DODO Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen performed the flyovers and included Keith Renfroe, Butch Bejna, Marvin Robinson, and chapter president Ken Rapier. The chapter is also active in the EAA Young Eagles program, flying about 40 kids a month out of the Gary, Indiana, airport - flights that used to take place at Meigs.
Sunday participant Charlie Anderson brought one of Meigs' original runway lights, which was obtained after the runway was ripped up in 2003. Anderson called it "a part of Meigs' DNA," that maybe could be the start of bringing it back someday in the future. He donated the artifact to the Friends of Meigs Field at the end of the flyover.
Whitney has no allusions that Chicago will rebuild Meigs Field, but at the same time refuses to say it could never happen.
"There's not a big chance, considering the views of the current mayor (Rahm Emanuel), but the chances are not absolutely zero," he said. "Under a different scenario, who knows?"
Whitney points to the controversial conversion of the city's iconic State Street into a pedestrian mall in the late 1970s. Less than 20 years later it was reopened to traffic as most people considered the conversion a terrible mistake. The man who oversaw the "State Street Revitalization Project" was Mayor Richard M. Daley.
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