Hundreds Watch B-52 Bomber Roar Over Arlington Cemetery

Flight Honoring Pentagon Attack Victim Stirs Pride, Not Panic

Far from causing alarm, the flight of a B-52 bomber over Arlington National Cemetery yesterday turned into a public memorial observance as hundreds of people stopped their cars or sat on the grass outside the cemetery to watch.

The well-publicized flyover was part of the funeral service for retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Robert J. Hymel, 55, one of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon.

A civilian management analyst at the time of his death, Hymel was a B-52 co-pilot during the Vietnam War.

As the bomber flew toward the cemetery about 3:25 p.m., it tipped its wings slightly toward the crowd, seeming to acknowledge the spectators who had gathered to take pictures.

Fearing that people would be anxious at the sight of a military plane, the military took pains to get word out about the flyover by the eight-engine aircraft.

But for many, the warning became a reason to visit the cemetery on a warm, sunny fall day — and police, though present, didn't issue tickets or object to double-parked vehicles until the plane was out of sight, on its way to Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.

Some spectators said they felt they were paying homage to all the victims of the attacks.

“I'm feeling so patriotic right now,” said Charlie Blaschke, who drove from Fairfax City with his wife, Barbara.

“It's something you don't get to see very often,” Barbara Blaschke said. “I think this whole thing has kind of left a hole in everybody's heart.”

Hymel stopped flying in 1972 after being gravely injured when his plane was hit over Hanoi and three members of the five-man crew were killed. His wife, Beatriz “Pat” Hymel, principal of Hoffman-Boston Elementary School in Arlington, said she had requested the flyover and was “ecstatic” that the military agreed.

Mimi Parikh and Kathy Giles, friends who had spent the afternoon visiting the Corcoran Gallery of Art in the District, decided to walk across Memorial Bridge to see the flyover. “It makes you appreciate being in D.C.,” Parikh said. “You appreciate seeing stuff like that.”

Debbie and Curt Young came from Vienna and parked near the bridge to see the flyover. Curt Young, an Air Force lieutenant colonel working at the State Department, used to fly B-52s.

“It's really special that they were able to make this happen,” Debbie Young said, adding that they were surprised at first to see so many other people waiting, too.

“But I think people are pulling together so closely after this,” Curt Young said.

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