Reese AFB closes today
By GRETCHEN PARKER
Since February 1995, when word reached the public that Reese Air Force Base was in peril, many Lubbockites have looked forward to today with anxiety, dread and disbelief.
The day many prayed would not arrive is here.
Military and civilian personnel will end 56 years of history in a ceremony this morning at 10 a.m. at the base flagpole. The Reese honor guard will lower the American flag for the last time, and the 64th Flying Training Wing flag will be sheathed as the wing is officially inactivated. An historical marker commemorating Reese will be unveiled at the main gate immediately following the ceremony.
After today the base's 3,000 acres and 700 buildings will be known as Reese Center. The Lubbock-Reese Redevelopment Authority will take care of the property, while the Air Force Base Conversion Agency stays on to clean up contamination. The LRRA plans to acquire the base sometime in the next year and turn it into a business and industrial park.
The announcement 2 years ago that Reese may be on the Pentagon's hit list sparked months of frenzied planning, rallying and organizing by Lubbock city leaders and congressional representatives.
Four members of the Base Closure and Realignment Commission toured the base in April - a visit that city leaders prepared for zealously. They told residents, business owners and media to give the group a greeting they would not forget.
Even they did not anticipate the outpouring of support by residents. Yellow ribbons adorned fences, trees and fire engines. Motorists drove with their lights on, and about 80 residents greeted the BRAC commissioners at the airport. Thousands lined the streets along the commissioners' path, shouting and waving yellow ribbons and signs that read, ''Stand Up for Reese'' and ''Save Reese.'' Students were released from classes to greet the group. Reese Elementary students chanted, ''Save our base'' for 30 minutes as commissioners passed. One board member was moved to tears by the city's demonstration.
Two months later, the commission voted 6-2 to close the gates of Reese Air Force Base. The anxious speculation about the Pentagon's decision ended abruptly.
''The Air Force totally flubbed it,'' said a visibly upset U.S. Rep. Larry Combest after the vote in Washington. Combest vowed that Lubbockites would look forward to the future nonetheless, and that they would find a use for the closed base.
There were about 230 military and civilian workers left on the base Monday to prepare for the closing. They spent their last full day packing up and resting up for the day that once seemed to be in the distant future.