The low murmur of approximately 200 voices stilled as someone whistled for attention, and a palpable wave of admiration, respect, and awe swept through the crowd of teachers and students Tuesday morning. All eyes were on Larry Cushenbery, retired Wichita Fire Department Honor Guard bugler as he marched crisply into place near the half-mast U.S. flag in front of the Hillsboro High School. With precise movements, Cushenbery brought a gleaming bronze trombone to his lips.
It was a moment in time, a time to remember, a ceremony to memorialize the day 11 years ago that thousands of American citizens lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of 9/11. In the silence, Cushenbery took several deep breaths and began to play the somber melodious notes that sent shivers deep into the souls of those listening.
Cushenbery, of Tampa, played three such ceremonies Tuesday in Hillsboro, starting at the elementary school at 8:03 a.m., the high school at 8:37 a.m., and finishing at city hall at 9:03 a.m. The times were significant, coinciding with the times that two airplanes flew into New York City’s twin towers and one which crashed into the Pentagon that fateful day.
Dan Perry of Hillsboro, a veteran of the United States Army Special Forces, organized the event.
“I feel like the American public has a short memory,” Perry said. “I believe we need to keep the memory of what happened on 9/11 fresh in the minds of our people, especially our youth. Most of those at the elementary were not even alive when this happened. We need to remember so we don’t ever have to go through anything like it again.”
Perry said he was concerned about people missing an opportunity to remember 9-11 because it fell on a weekday and not a weekend. He consulted with friends who knew about Bugles Across America and learned that they were planning Taps remembrance ceremonies in Lindsborg.
“I knew Cushenbery was in Bugles Across America and asked him if he would come to play in Hillsboro,” Perry said. “He said he would as long as he could play his trombone.”
Cushenbery said the choice of trombone for the taps ceremony was no accident.
“I’ve been a bugler for 15 to 20 years,” he said. “I can play the bugle, trumpet, cornet, and trombone. When I had my honor guard listen from around a corner so they couldn’t see which instrument I played, they picked the trombone. It has a much more somber, melodious tone.”
Cushenbery is a retired EMS worker in Tampa, often staffs an ambulance crew at local football games, and starts work next week as a jailer at the new Marion County jail.
After the Taps ceremony at the Hillsboro schools, teachers visited with their students about the events of 9/11 and the safety of citizens in the U.S.