I spent last Sunday afternoon sitting in my son’s back pasture in a camp chair, a soda in my hand, my eyes on the skies. We’ve never braved the massive crowds that gather at Hill Air Force Base’s air show to view the grounded jets, talk to the pilots, watch the sky show, see the displays and immerse ourselves in that noisy, crazy event. But years ago we discovered that from our son’s pasture we can watch not only all the sky acrobatics the pilots perform, but also their impressive maneuverings as they line up off field to come screaming in at perfect formation over the vast throngs on the base’s tarmac.
Those pilots are talented, skilled speed junkies who’ve earned the right to go as fast as they want. Their adoring crowds risk temporary hearing loss from the roar of jets scooting above them at 125 feet just to watch those super stars in action.
I deeply admire those pilots — now. But this wasn’t always the case. In fact, years ago those pilots and their fancy flying fleet unintentionally struck unbearable regret into my heart as surely as if they’d shot me with a missile.
In 1995, the air show was held in August. That same weekend, my family moved from a quiet, non-military, farming-type valley up north to our new dream home in the metropolis of Layton, Utah. Our kids were young, we were young parents and we had found the perfect place to live — the home we had dreamed of and worked toward for years. We were certain it would be our new Eden.
That dream took a direct hit the day we moved here.
As non-military people, we’d never lived in an Air Force base town before. We hadn’t experienced the “sounds of freedom” as patriots here refer to the noise of jets flying overhead so loudly that you automatically halt conversation until they pass.
So when our moving van pulled up that fated Saturday morning, we began hauling our belongings into our new home, initially unaware of the rumble of jets in the skies. But by late afternoon, we were aware of them — painfully aware that jets were swooping and circling above our home, leaving plumes behind them in lovely designs that did not entertain us at all. With sinking hearts we watched the jets scream by, some shockingly close, all unbearably noisy to a family who had never heard one before.
We made the very incorrect assumption that our new, “perfect” home was built in the flight path of the Base’s incoming and outgoing jets, and we were in trouble. That thought ejected our previous happiness right out the window and replaced it with a gnawing, horrific belief that our lives would be filled with jets screaming above us daily, and we’d live with that noise forever.
That evening, long after the last jet trail faded from the sky, I laid awake sobbing because of the terrible mistake I thought we’d made. How could we have been so foolish? How did we miss something so significant? What effect would all that noise have on our family? Would we ever grow used to it? And should we? How in the world did other people in our neighborhood live like this?
When Monday came and no jets screamed in the skies above us, we wondered what was going on. We bought a local newspaper and discovered the error of our assumption in all the glowing reports of the air show. It’s an understatement to say there was great rejoicing in the Brown household that day.
Since then, we’ve come to appreciate those jets flying overhead. OK, maybe not the night runs. But still, there is a deep comfort in knowing those guardians are up there training, perfecting and protecting us all.
This transplant has grown to love the sights and sounds of the air show now — because it’s exciting, professional and impressive — and lasts just two days.
D. Louise Brown lives in Layton. She writes a biweekly column for the Standard Examiner.