Ten years ago today Chicago's lakefront underrwent a major transformation in an overnight raid.

Still, Dunn said the closing of a publicly owned airport close to the central business district is rare.

"Most cities, take Cleveland and New Orleans, for instance, understand that an airport is actually much like the interstate highway system — it is the community's entrance and exit ramp to a national transportation system," Dunn said. "If you lay down a mile of roadway, it takes you one mile. A mile of runway will take you anywhere in the world."

Even after all these years, the loss of Meigs remains difficult to reconcile for pilots like Steve Whitney, who grew up in Chicago's suburbs, earned his pilot's license while in high school and vividly remembers his excitement each time he spotted the airfield from Lake Shore Drive, before the road was reconfigured.

"Meigs to me was an inspiration. It represented travel and freedom and independence. I would like people to recognize that something big, a landmark, was lost," said Whitney, getting a little choked up.

"There is a line in the Plan of Chicago," he said. "It talks about one of the reasons to develop the lakefront was the romance of watching boats on the lake. I get the same feeling from airplanes, getting an iconic view of this big beautiful city from the air," he said.

Whitney is president of the Friends of Meigs Field and said its membership is about 6,800 today. On Sunday, a flyover is planned — complete with the missing man formation — to commemorate the city's destruction of Meigs, said Rachel Goodstein, a former president of Friends of Meigs Field.

Dick Simpson, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and 44th Ward alderman from 1971-79, said he views the Meigs affair as an example of the autocratic misuse of mayoral power over city government.

"It will be remembered as one of the negative aspects of the Daley regime, along with a rubber-stamp City Council, failures to get the big projects (done) like a third airport" and Daley's inability to revitalize the southeast section of Chicago, said Simpson, who introduced resolutions to close Meigs in the 1970s. He was thwarted by Mayor Richard J. Daley, who insisted on keeping the airstrip open for the business community because of Meigs' nearness to downtown.

The senior Daley's son, on the other hand, with the blessing if not the insistence of his wife, Maggie, started plans to turn Meigs into a park shortly after he became mayor in 1989.

The mayor closed Meigs, for the first of two times, in 1996. The shutdown and plans for a park were not received well in Springfield however. Meigs reopened in 1997.

In 2001, Daley struck a new deal with Gov. George Ryan to keep Meigs open until at least 2006, in return for Ryan supporting Daley's plan to expand and modernize O'Hare International Airport. The two men later informally agreed that Meigs would stay open until 2026, but Daley reneged, sending in the bulldozers.

Paul Green, a political scientist and commentator, thinks Daley's Meigs caper won't amount to more than a blip on the political radar.

"Ask Chicagoans, would they rather have the Meigs airport for a few people or to go see Jimmy Buffett?" said Green, director of the Institute for Politics at Roosevelt University.

"It's over," Green said, dismissing any suggestions that the decision had tarnished Daley. "(Daley) certainly knows how to end a debate."

Ten years have passed, and presumably the pilots and businesspeople who used Meigs have dispersed to other airports, he said.

No definitive studies have been conducted to show where the traffic went, according to the pilot group, or whether significant numbers of Chicago visitors who previously landed at Meigs have boycotted the city, as some Meigs' supporters warned would happen.

"It's a new city. Old grudges die when you have new voters," Green said.

Indeed, with Rahm Emanuel now mayor, his administration said its plans for Northerly Island definitely do not involve an airport.

"Northerly Island has tremendous potential as an open space that all Chicagoans can enjoy, and we are focused on pursuing its development as a world-class place for Chicagoans and tourists to gather," said Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton.

The Park District's long-term plan for Northerly Island calls for dividing the peninsula into an active northern end with a permanent concert venue and other activities for visitors; and a nature-focused habitat on the southern end, which would serve as a haven for migratory birds and native species.