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They ride to honor 9/11 terrorism victims

HAGERSTOWN

HAGERSTOWN

August 20, 2005|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

erinc@herald-mail.com

Matt Vitacco helped pump nearly $500 worth of gasoline Friday afternoon.

Vitacco and about 30 other volunteers filled at least 850 motorcycles before they made a pit stop at Prime Outlets at Hagerstown.

Vitacco was a volunteer and part of the fifth annual America's 9/11 Ride Foundation Inc. motorcycle ride honoring victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The ride began in Somerset, Pa., Friday and moved through Cumberland, Md., before riders reached Hagerstown for an afternoon break.

After eating lunch, refueling and resting for one hour, they got back on their motorcycles and, escorted by police, rode to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Today, they will travel to New York City.

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"The ride goes to all three crash sites to honor the people who died (in the terrorist attacks)," said April Sjurseth, who helped coordinate the event.

Sjurseth said more riders join the group at each stop. She expected a large number of bikers to join in Washington, D.C. The number of participants could climb to as many as 1,400, she said.

The motorcycles formed a 10-mile line on Friday while traveling eastbound on Interstate 70.

The bikers took up most of the parking lot near the Prime Outlets food court.

For some, the ride began before Somerset. Riders from Florida to Canada were registered for the trip.

Rita Byers, a retired elementary school teacher from Chambersburg, Pa., and her husband, Bob, said they were participating in their second Sept. 11 motorcycle ride.

"It's exciting," Byers said. "It's moving and emotional. It's just doing anything to keep from forgetting."

Many of the riders knew people killed in the World Trade Center, or police and firefighters who were at the scene.

Susan Hopewell, a former firefighter from Northumberland, Pa., said her brother's friend died in the World Trade Center. Hopewell, on her third ride, said she takes the annual trip to "honor those who died and remember the first responders who are still with us."

Jean Hejduk, of Strongsville, Ohio, took a week off from work to ride for the first time.

"I pretty much said, 'I'm going on a bike trip, I'll see you in six days,'" Hejduk said. She will stay in New York after the ride.

On Friday, when Hejduk saw the site of the Pennsylvania plane crash, she said it was "touching."

"You only see these things in the newspaper," Hejduk said. "But until you see these things in person ... it's just a different experience."

America's 9/11 Ride Foundation Inc. began in November 2001. Sjurseth said her brother-in-law, Ted Sjurseth, wanted to help New York City after the terrorist attacks. He was told manpower was not needed. What the city needed was for tourists to return, she said.

"They just told him to please bring people back," Sjurseth said.

The ride ends in New York City with a ride past the spot where the World Trade Center stood.

For details about America's 9/11 Foundation Inc., go to www.americas911ride.org.

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