COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KDVR) – This week marks 20 years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. And few Colorado families know the pain of those attacks first-hand like Gene and Flo Yancey of Colorado Springs.
They lost their daughter, Kathy, that day. But it turns out paintbrushes and canvas have helped keep her memory alive.
“I had painted and had taught commercial art, and then I quit,” Kathy’s father, Gene, said.
But at the start of the pandemic, he decided to start painting again. In part, to raise money for a scholarship in his daughter’s memory.
“I love it now. More so than ever before. Because now I know what it’s going to be,” he said.
The scholarship in Kathy’s memory goes to a JROTC member at Mitchell High School in Colorado Springs, Kathy’s alma mater.
“The reason I wanted to do it is because we have a scholarship program in effect. It was one thing I could do… paint and maybe produce some revenue for the scholarship,” Gene said.
Kathy Laborie Yancey was the lead flight attendant on United flight 175 on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. The flight from Boston to Los Angeles was hijacked by terrorists and purposely crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center, killing everyone on board.
“It is still hurtful. I mean, it just brings back so many memories,” Gene said.
“She always called before she went to the flight. And so she called, I think it was the night before, and said, ‘Mom, I’m going to LA.’ And that was the last time that I got to talk to her,” Flo said.
The south tower collapsed nearly an hour after impact. Kathy’s remains have never been identified.
“We all did give our DNA, but (they) never anything found from her,” Flo said.
Still, there are reminders of Kathy every day and everywhere. From the park bench outside the Yancey family home on the north side of Colorado Springs, where a plaque contains Kathy’s name and United flight attendant wings, to the art Gene has started painting again. Turns out, Kathy is on nearly every canvas.
“One thing I do is I put an eagle in the sky. And that’s to represent her. My priest said that if you ever see an eagle sitting on a branch, you’ll know that it’s Kathy come to see you,” Gene said.
To bid on Gene’s paintings as part of the Mitchell High School JROTC scholarship fundraiser, click here contact Lt. Col. Keith Woodfork.