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Bugler to sound taps at local schools

News editor

Larry Cushenbery never wanted to be a teacher, but he’ll be doing some educating Thursday as he commemorates the 9/11 anniversary with area students.

This is the third year Cushenbery, a former bugler for the Wichita Fire Department, will mark the anniversary of the terrorist attacks by playing Taps at locations in Hillsboro and Marion, including schools. At each stop, Cushenbery plays with reverence befitting the occasion, but playing at schools holds extra importance for him.

“The people who are seniors this year were in kindergarten when this occurred,” Cushenbery said. “We’ve got virtually a whole generation of kids that 9/11 is kind of like Pearl Harbor was to us; we heard about it but we weren’t there.”

Cushenbery will play at Hillsboro High School, Hillsboro Elementary School, Marion High and Middle Schools, and Marion Elementary School. Each stop is timed to coincide with time of a significant event on 9/11, and after playing Taps, he has time scheduled to talk to students about the significance of the day.

“After I put the horn down, I go back and explain to the kids, try to give them some perspective,” Cushenbery said.

He tries to use examples students can relate to. One is a sports analogy.

“When you’re in fifth place, it’s no big deal when you play a game, but when you’re in first place, they come loaded for bear,” Cushenbery said. “That’s kind of what happened to us, we got to be the big boy on the block, we were taking care of all these problems, and somebody said, ‘Hey, let’s knock them down a notch.’”

As a retired firefighter, Cushenbery watched the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and United Flight 93 attacks unfold in 2001 with professional eyes. He knew the firefighters in the towers faced impossible odds, and was stunned as he watched the towers collapse, killing nearly 3,000 people, including 343 firefighters.

“I was just numb. I couldn’t even imagine. Just the empathy for those guys…,” Cushenbery trailed off.

His empathy intensified three years later when he was the bugler for the dedication of a 9/11 memorial in Anthony. The town adopted a New York City fire station after the attack, and Cushenbery met several of those firefighters before the dedication.

“I know about this kind of stuff,” he said. “Three thousand at one call, and you hear these guys tell about it, you can feel it.”

While reverence is in every performance he gives, some, like one in Hillsboro for 9/11 last year, are more intense.

“Last year the Florence Fire Department had a truck follow me to every place I went,” Cushenbery said. “When we got to Hillsboro High School, there was a Florence truck, a Hillsboro truck, and a Marion County ambulance. When I saw those guys standing there it was different than when it was just people.”

Cushenbery will start Thursday at Hillsboro City Hall at 7:46 a.m., the time of the first World Trade Center hit. He will play at HHS at 8:03 a.m., HES at 8:37 a.m., Marion County courthouse at 8:58 a.m., MHS at 9:03 a.m., and MES at 9:28 a.m. At 10 a.m. he will play at the Marion County Sheriff’s office, as a tribute to the emergency workers and veterans that lost their lives on or since 9/11.

Last modified Sept. 11, 2014

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