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High Flight: Remembering the C-141 Collision of 1992' on Display at the Blaine County Museum

The Blaine County Museum in Chinook has done a wonderful job bringing traveling exhibits to feature locally. These exhibits add a lot to the museum experience and often feature local themes. The most recent display is an exhibit titled "High Flight: Remembering the C-141 Collision of 1992" focusing on the tragic event that occurred 30 years ago just north of Harlem. The Airmen Memorial in Harlem recently held its 30 year commemoration that included the dedication of a new bridge. Many of our readers may be familiar with the story, but an opportunity to see it told in a display such as this is one is something everyone should be able to see.

The Blaine County Museum plans to kick off the exhibit with a formal opening on Saturday, January 7 at 12 pm. Blaine County Museum Director, Samantha French stated, "The exhibit is in the museum lobby and can be viewed beginning at 10 am that day. The display was created with materials from four scrapbooks assembled by Darwin Zellmer and the Airmen Memorial Committee in the aftermath of the disaster." The name for the exhibit has deep meaning, "The exhibit is named for the poem 'High Flight' by John Gillespie Magee Jr., which is displayed on a plaque gifted to the Airmen Memorial Committee by the family of Captain Kevin M. Maguire. The poem was also recited during the 1993 Airmen Memorial monument dedication in Harlem."

Zellmer has dedicated the past 30 years to preserving the events of that tragic day and has worked tirelessly in keeping a detailed record. His work is featured throughout the exhibit. "The public can view eight enlarged photographs by Zellmer, photos of the 13 airmen who lost their lives, artifacts related to the victims, and the four scrapbooks in their entirety," added French.

The formal opening of the exhibit will begin at Noon with footage documenting the events of the crash as well as construction of the Airmen Memorial monuments in Harlem and on Hogeland Road near the crash site. French stated, "The film was also put together by Zellmer, and it runs approximately one hour and fifteen minutes."

Once the film has completed French says, "Following the film showing, the museum will be hosting a panel available for questions about the event. This panel will include Zellmer and Kraig Hansen, who was a first responder at the collision site. Zellmer and Hansen have graciously agreed to share their experiences during this harrowing event and its aftermath and engage in a 'Question and Answer' session with the public.

These two individuals have been instrumental in preserving the history of the event, "I have spoken with both men about their experiences during this disaster, and I believe their reflections will be impactful to the audience, whether attendees remember the collision firsthand, or were not aware it occurred at all. Hansen's memories, while sobering, are extremely engaging," commented French. "This collision, while historic due to the death toll and enormity of the wreckage left in its wake, is also significant because of the civic and community efforts put forth in its aftermath to honor and commemorate the servicemen killed. I think the collaboration to do something special for the victims and their families is inspiring, and it says so much about what it means to be from small town Montana, Harlem and Blaine County specifically.

The impact of the community response has been tremendous, "In his letter of thanks to the people of Harlem for constructing the Airmen Memorial monument, U.S. Secretary of Defense Les Aspin quoted Pearl S. Buck '...Montanan, among all the states remains the closest to basic nature' and continued to comment 'I am sure she was referring not only to the majesty of your landscapes, but also to the basic goodness and kindness of its people'."

This Exhibit Kickoff celebration is free and open to the public and will include light refreshments. The High Flight: Remembering the C-141 Collision of 1992 exhibit will remain on display through Memorial Day 2023 which marks the 30th Anniversary of the completion and dedication of the Airmen Memorial monument in Harlem.

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