DFW AIRPORT (CBSDFW.COM) – As the American Airlines jet landed on an empty airstrip Wednesday, two fire engines stationed on either side of it each unleashed towering torrents of water.
Word had already begun to spread among travelers as to what may be on board. Why was the usually bustling terminal brought to a stand-still? And why was this jet slowly cruising under these cascades of water?
The captain of the flight soon began his slow descent down the exit ramp, with a folded red, white and blue cloth collapsed in his arms and held tightly against his chest.
“It’s called the honor flag,” said Capt. Chris Gay of the DFW Airport Fire Department.
Gay took the flag from the captain in a slow, solemn – and silent – handover ceremony.
“It flew over Ground Zero during 9/11,” he said. “We’re bringing it to be on display at the fallen firefighter’s funeral in Dallas.”
That firefighter is Lt. Todd Krodle, who died when he fell through a roof battling a southwest Dallas apartment fire Sunday. He was a 17-year veteran of the department.
The flag had traveled more than 1,300 miles from San Diego, where it was present for police officer Jeremy Henwood’s funeral. Henwood was fatally shot 10 minutes after buying a child a bag of cookies from a McDonald’s.
On Wednesday, police cleared a path as Gay – in full uniform – carried the flag from the gate to a fire engine waiting outside the airport.
“Move to your left, sir,” he said firmly, but politely, to a nearby man.
Many travelers had already stopped to look, many with their smart phones at the ready, taking photos.
“I’m telling you, that is wonderful,” said Heslyn Cunningham, a traveler waiting for her flight. “That is a good thing. It gives me chills.”
For those present, involved the ceremony or not, the flag’s symbolism was universal.
“It’s a mission,” Gay said. “A mission of honor, exactly what it is. Supporting our brothers and sisters on the job and bringing that extra sense of family that our fire service has always been known for, back into it.”
Krodle’s funeral is at 10 a.m. Friday at the Highland Terrace Baptist Church in Greenville, at 3939 Joe Ramsay Blvd.