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Human chain honors heroes

September 12, 2002|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Brady Strite isn't old enough to comprehend last year's terrorist attacks.

Brady, who will turn 3 in October, just knows that a building fell and people died, said his great-grandmother Marilyn Pettner, 65, of State Line, Pa.

With dozens of remembrance events being held in the Tri-State area on Wednesday, Pettner and Brady's aunt, Michelle Donaldson, decided to take him to the formation of a human chain along Wesel Boulevard to honor Sept. 11's heroes.

"This way, it's something he'll remember," Pettner said of the little boy dressed up like a firefighter.

About 200 people held hands in the blustery wind under a large U.S. flag as they lined westbound Wesel Boulevard on Wednesday morning. Many wore red, white and blue or shirts depicting the American flag or a remembrance of Sept. 11. Drivers honked their horns as they passed between the two lines of people.

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Lynn Bibbee, community involvement coordinator for Sam's Club, organized the event. Sam's Club, Kmart, Lowe's, McDonald's and Chick Fil-A were among the businesses that closed during the ceremony so employees could participate.

Through various fund-raisers, Sam's Club has raised about $8,000 since Aug. 11 for the Hagerstown Fire Department, Hagerstown Police Department and the Volunteer Fire Co. of Halfway, Bibbee said. The store will continue to collect donations through Sunday, she said.

At 8:46 a.m. - the time the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, Hagerstown City Police Officer Dave Peacher slowly drove his patrol car, with lights flashing, between the two lines of people holding hands.

The AMVETS Post 10 color guard performed a 12-gun salute after a moment of silence. Wal-Mart employee and Fairplay resident LeAnne Stoneberger led the crowd in a soft rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner."

The crowd became hushed as the cruiser passed by; people burst into cheers and applause after the anthem.

That so many people would show up to honor firefighters and police officers was sobering, Halfway fire company spokesman Alan Matheny said.

"I don't think it's just remembering us. It's pride for the country, to come out," Matheny said.

Hagerstown Police Capt. Charlie Summers said it was gratifying to see the turnout, but said it was a shame it took a tragedy of such magnitude for people to recognize the sacrifices public safety personnel make every day.

"We probably knew all along that they really did care," Summers said.

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