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Wednesday, April 3, 2002

Flyover causes degree of panic

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What was supposed to be a low-flying, high-speed show of support for the Kansas Jayhawks' successful season had many Lawrence residents running for cover Tuesday.

A B-1B bomber from McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita performed two flyovers during an afternoon welcome-home pep rally for the KU men's basketball team at Memorial Stadium on the Kansas University campus. Though the flyover was announced in the Lawrence Journal-World and on 6News, people who missed the news were caught unaware.

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Alexis Kriegh, 3, and her father, Kelly Kriegh, both of Lawrence, let the Jayhawks know they're No. 1 in the hearts of many fans. The Krieghs attended a rally Tuesday at Memorial Stadium on the Kansas University campus to welcome the men's basketball team home from a trip to Atlanta for the NCAA Final Four.

Melanie Foronda, who lives near Lawrence High School, said she and her family headed straight for the basement when they saw and heard the bomber flying low over their neighborhood.

"Everyone was thinking September 11. You don't mean to, but it's because that is so fresh in our minds," she said. "I get goosebumps thinking about it. It was so scary."

Foronda said the force of the aircraft shook her entire house. She watched as terrified people at the high school tennis courts hit the ground.

"There were people huddled on top of each other, protecting each other," she said.

Foronda called Lawrence Police and found out from dispatchers that the flyover was part of the KU pep rally. But she said university officials should have given better notice.

"It was too much, and it wasn't announced," she said. "It was inappropriate. It scared people half to death."

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KU coach Roy Williams, left, although windblown and cold, gets a warm reception as he addresses the crowd. Joining Williams, front row from left, are radio announcers Max Falkenstien and Bob Davis and KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway. At rear are assistant coaches Ben Miller, left, and Neil Dougherty.

University spokeswoman Lynn Bretz said the flight had clearance and had been approved all the way up through the Pentagon.

"We did try to make every effort to let people know that a B-1 flyover was going to be part of the ceremony," she said.

Lawrence resident Jennifer Holder didn't see any of the announcements and didn't know what to tell her 6-year-old son, Josh, when he came to her in tears, wanting to know what was going on.

"I think it's wonderful for the celebration and for the excellent season that the Jayhawks had," said Holder, who lives in the 1700 block of Vermont Street. "It's kind of scary for the small children. If it hadn't been so close to September 11, it would have been a totally different thing."

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Kansas cheerleader Allison Mezger cheers with Baby Jay while a B-1B bomber flies over Kansas Memorial Stadium. The flyover, while announced in advance, scared many Lawrence residents into running for cover.

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KU basketball team members smile as the crowd chants "one more year," a plea for player Drew Gooden, center, to return for his senior year at KU.

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