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Motorcycle ride is rolling memorial to 9/11

August 19, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN - Karen Pentito sank into depression after Sept. 11, and has harbored anxiety over the attacks in the five years since, which is why she decided to see the sites of each plane crash this weekend along with about 600 other motorcyclists participating in the sixth America's 9/11 Ride, which stopped Friday in Hagerstown.

"I personally have been wanting to do this for years to get a little bit of closure about what happened," said Pentito, 59, standing beside her husband, Joe Pentito. The Amherst, Ohio, couple, who have been motorcyclists since the 1960s, rode into Prime Outlets at Hagerstown Friday on a Harley-Davidson trike.

The lunchtime stop for gas and food off Sharpsburg Pike came after the group began their trek Friday from Somerset, Pa. - the site of the United Airlines Flight 93 crash. Motorcyclists - escorted by police - planned to visit the Pentagon Friday night, and end their trip today at ground zero in New York City, said Bill Viggiani, executive director of America's 9/11 Foundation Inc., which coordinates the trip. The ride is held to support first responders, and to remind Americans to "never forget" the Sept. 11 attacks, he said.

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Proceeds from the sale of raffle tickets for a chance to win a custom-made chopper go to scholarship funds for families of first responders, Viggiani said. The chopper - the third in a series - is painted with a draped American flag, and has brake lights in the shape of Pennsylvania and a cross made of metal from the World Trade Center, he said.

After visiting Somerset on Friday, Pentito said she cried, but also "felt a little bit better," mainly because she was touched by the passengers' heroism, and moved by the community's patriotism.

A priest walked down the streets in Somerset and doused holy water on the motorcyclists as they rode through town. Children stood outside waving American flags, some cyclists recounted.

"You feel for the people that crashed the plane, and feel a sense of pride for what they did in possibly protecting the White House or other parts of Washington from being attacked," said Jim Musgrave, 46, who rode with his wife, Rose Musgrave, 46, of Arlington, Va. Rose Musgrave said she works a half-mile from the Pentagon and saw it explode Sept. 11.

Her memory of the attacks is fresh, but she worries others are beginning to forget.

"I think everyone is getting complacent again and forgetting," she said.

Not a day goes by that Maryland State Police 1st Sgt. Frank Wastler doesn't think about Sept. 11. Wastler was sent to the Pentagon that morning to secure the perimeter, he said.

On Friday, he served as an escort, but said he was remembering Sept. 11, too.

"It just brings back those memories," Wastler said.

Miguel Macaoay, a Washington, D.C., doctor, took part in the ride for the third time this weekend.

On Sept. 11, Macaoay was a doctor at Long Island Jewish Medical Center Schneider Children's Hospital, and remembers feeling frustrated and helpless while waiting in the emergency room to treat patients wounded in the collapses of the twin towers.

"We tried to give care at 9/11, but unfortunately, no victims came," he said.

"Folks were going about their daily work, and they got killed," Macaoay said. "It's very sad, but the ride at least acknowledges those lives lost."

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