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Patriotic Article
Heroes and Patriots
By Airman Alexis Siekert and Sean Bowlin

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Reservist Awarded The Airman's Medal For Off-Duty Heroism
(December 17, 2010)

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Maj. Gen. Frank Padilla presents the Airman's Medal to Lt. Col Richard L. Lowe at a ceremony Dec. 10, 2010, at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. Colonel Lowe distinguished himself by heroism involving voluntary risk of life following the crash of Continental Airlines Flight 1404 Dec. 20, 2008, at Denver International Airport. General Padilla is the 10th Air Force commander at Air Force Reserve Command Joint Reserve Base at Fort Worth, Texas. Colonel Lowe is a 340th Reserve Flight instructor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Lindsey
Maj. Gen. Frank Padilla presents the Airman's Medal to Lt. Col Richard L. Lowe at a ceremony Dec. 10, 2010, at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. Colonel Lowe distinguished himself by heroism involving voluntary risk of life following the crash of Continental Airlines Flight 1404 Dec. 20, 2008, at Denver International Airport. General Padilla is the 10th Air Force commander at Air Force Reserve Command Joint Reserve Base at Fort Worth, Texas. Colonel Lowe is a 340th Reserve Flight instructor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Lindsey
 RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (12/14/2010 - AFNS)

An Air Force reservist pulled injured and panicking passengers from a smoking airliner that crashed upon takeoff December 2008. For his heroic actions, the 10th Air Force commander presented this Airman with an Airman's Medal here Dec. 10.

The military decoration is awarded for "heroism not involving actual conflict with an armed enemy." It is the highest non-combat-related award in the Air Force.

While a passenger on Continental Airlines Flight 1404, Lt. Col. Richard Lowe, a 340th Reserve Flight instructor, helped successfully evacuate the passengers and crew of the flight after the plane skidded off a runway while taking off from Denver International Airport.

"It was dark, and I was reading," he said. "Then I felt something. It was like an instantaneous gust of wind. I felt the airplane skidding. It was going off the runway; I thought the wind was controlling it."

Colonel Lowe said the plane caught some air and "catapulted" skyward.

"The ride kept getting more and more violent," he added.

The plane stopped moving after the last impact with ground. Glancing around quickly, the colonel looked out
the window and saw flames everywhere. A wing was burning. The smell of fuel permeated the cabin.
Pandemonium took over some, but he stayed calm.

"Then there was the panic of the people trying to get out of the plane," Colonel Lowe added, "but the flight attendants did a heroic job of calmly and selflessly directing the evacuation."

Colonel Lowe made several trips in and out of the wreckage to ensure everyone was safely out of the plane.

Maj. Gen. Frank Padilla told the audience that Colonel Lowe was an ordinary guy, doing an extraordinary deed.

The men and women of the Reserves "don't just settle for just enough, they are the best of the best," he added.

"I'm humbled and honored that my peers would nominate me for this award," Colonel Lowe said. He said he credits his military training to "stay calm and slow down to go fast" for helping him save his life as well as others onboard.

The colonel said he could feel the sand running out of the hour glass and the hair stand up on the back of his neck on his last trip into the aircraft. It was only a few seconds after he exited for the final time that there was an explosion.

"I don't think I did anything that anyone else wouldn't have done," he said.

Colonel Lowe also received a presidential citation from the Air Line Pilots Association for his actions on that day.

By Airman Alexis Siekert and Sean Bowlin
Copyright 2010

Reprinted from Air Force News Service

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