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America's 9/11 Ride rolls into town

About 1,500 participants stopped in Hagerstown to fuel up their motorcycles Friday as they continued their ride to the Pentagon

About 1,500 participants stopped in Hagerstown to fuel up their motorcycles Friday as they continued their ride to the Pentagon

August 21, 2004|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

Onlookers stopped and cars slowed to watch as about 1,500 motorcyclists paraded into Hagerstown to fuel up their engines for this year's America's 9/11 Ride.

By Friday, participation nearly had doubled over last year's ride, and organizers said they expect 2,000 bikers before the ride reaches Ground Zero in New York.

The largest police-escorted motorcycle ride in the nation, America's 9/11 Ride is held in remembrance of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and as a fund-raiser, said Jim Haywood, vice president of America's 9/11 Ride Foundation Inc. The route retraces all three 9/11 crash sites.

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"We do it to support police, fire, EMS and rescue departments on a national basis," Haywood said. "These are people who put their lives on the line for us every day."

Dressed in black-leather jackets, colorful head scarfs and blue jeans, patriotism was felt amid the sounds that filled the parking lot of the AC&T Exxon on Sharpsburg Pike near Interstate 70.

"Everything went very well," said Jill Duffey, assistant manager of the AC&T Exxon. "They used eight pumps, which left the other pumps for our regular customers. Last year, we didn't know we were designated as a fueling place."

The ride started Thursday in Somerset, Pa., where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed with 45 people aboard on September 11, 2001.

John Herko of Libertytown, Md., rode a 2002 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy bearing his personally made custom design.

"On the rear fender, I've got the names of the victims who died at the Pentagon, and on the front bumper are the names of the victims aboard the plane that hit the Pentagon," Herko said.

Wearing yellow T-shirts with the words "special agent" on the back, a support team of about 20 volunteers traveled in trucks to help with breakdowns and other emergencies.

Biker Meryl Wenig manned the gas pumps dressed in a black leather jacket with a patch that read "BORN TO BE WILD." The New York native said she hopes the ride will serve as a reminder that freedom isn't free.

"This ride should also remind people that terrorism is still rampant," she said.

Organizers used the parking lot at Prime Outlets at Hagerstown to register additional riders before departing for Washington, D.C., where they spent the night.

This morning, riders will visit the Pentagon before heading to Ground Zero in New York, where they will pay a brief tribute, Haywood said.

The ride will end tonight with a program at the New York Hilton Hotel, where the foundation will make a donation to New York firefighters.

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