A decade later, family will leave bottle of beloved Ale-8 at serviceman's grave

A weekend full of services for Pentagon victim

jwarren@herald-leader.comSeptember 10, 2011 

Andrea Earhart Stauter says the passage of 10 years has eased, but not removed, the pain of losing her brother, Edward Thomas Earhart, on Sept. 11, 2001.

"For the first year or two, if I looked at the calendar and it was 9/11, I would cry," she said. "I don't cry now. But I always think it's a difficult day for our family."

Stauter, who lives in Winchester, is the oldest sister of Navy Petty Officer Edward Earhart, who died when terrorists crashed a jetliner into the Pentagon 10 years ago Sunday. He was the first Kentucky serviceman reported killed in the terror attacks.

Earhart, a Navy weatherman from Morehead, had been assigned to the Pentagon. He had gone there that morning to train another officer.

Earhart was raised in Morehead and attended Morehead State University before leaving school to begin a Navy career. He died at age 26.

"I think it's hard to realize that it has been 10 years," Stauter said. "You look back, and think, 'Oh my gosh, 10 years.' For some reason, it doesn't feel like 10 years to me, because it keeps going on.

"There's always an empty chair at the table, especially on holidays. Always knowing he's not there."

Earhart's mother also lives in Winchester. Another sister lives in California. Several relatives live in Morehead, including his great-uncle, Clyde Thomas, a former Rowan County judge-executive, and his aunt, Claudette Thomas.

It will be a busy weekend for the family.

Many in the family attended ceremonies Friday remembering Earhart at Morehead State. They're also scheduled to attend ceremonies Sunday at the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort. Stauter said a replica of the Liberty Bell will be rung in memory of those lost on Sept. 11, 2001, at the World Trade Center; at the Pentagon; and at Shanksville, Pa., where United Flight 93 crashed as passengers tried to wrest the plane from the control of terrorists who had hijacked it.

A ceremony also is planned at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Memorial Wall at the old Rowan County courthouse in Morehead.

Finally, Earhart family members will gather at Earhart's grave site near Morehead at 7 p.m. Sunday for a personal memorial service that will be open to the general public.

Earhart's family and many of his friends will place flowers at his grave, and they'll exchange stories and memories of their lost loved one. Stauter said the service will include the release of 26 red balloons, symbolizing Earhart's 26 years on Earth, and 10 white balloons symbolizing the 10th anniversary of his death.

Friends and family also will continue the tradition, begun a decade ago, of leaving a bottle of Ale-8-One at Earhart's grave.

It was his favorite soft drink, his sister said.

Reach Jim Warren at (859) 231-3255 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3255.

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