Motorcyclists stop in Hagerstown on America's 9/11 Ride

August 17, 2007|By HEATHER KEELS

What happens when a thousand motorcycles all need to refuel at once?

It sounds like a recipe for chaos, but America's 9/11 Foundation accomplished it in about an hour and 20 minutes Friday as motorcyclists passed through Hagerstown on an annual Sept. 11 memorial ride.

The group made a pit stop at Prime Outlets Hagerstown on its trip to the Pentagon from the Flight 93 crash site in Shanksville, Pa., roaring into the Sheetz and Exxon stations near the outlets shortly after 11 a.m.

There, "pumper team" volunteers had staked out 22 pumps - all but one at Exxon and half the pumps at Sheetz, said Larry Conneen, a retired police officer from Delaplane, Va., who helped direct the riders into the stations. To streamline the process, pumpers kept the gas nozzle off the hook as they fueled the motorcycles, collecting payment in cash from the riders, he said. The pumpers rounded each bike's total to the nearest dollar, and participants had been asked to bring small bills to eliminate the need to make change.


From there, it was on to a parking lot near LongHorn Steakhouse for a donated lunch of ham and turkey wraps.

"It's so well-organized, from the setup to the food line," marveled Carole Chionchio, 49, as she stepped forward in the line that stretched across the parking lot. She said she had seen serving lunch take hours on rides with only a few hundred people.

America's 9/11 Ride, which is in its seventh year, had more than 700 motorcyclists registered, according to foundation president Ted Sjurseth, but participants estimated the total number was closer to 1,000, including the 120 police escorts and motorcyclists who had joined in along the way.

The ride set a fundraising record this year, Sjurseth said. The money will be used for scholarships for children of first responders. In addition to the $100-per-bike fee to join the ride, this year, participants were encouraged to raise money through sponsorships, with riders who raised more than $1,000 granted VIP status and allowed to ride at the front of the pack.

There were 14 VIP riders who together contributed more than $20,000, foundation spokesman Roger Flick said.

Today, the motorcyclists will ride to the World Trade Center site, completing a tour of the three Sept. 11 crash sites.

"I think it's important, as an American, to go to the Pentagon and Ground Zero," said Carole Garretson, who had ridden from Akron, Ohio, with her husband to be part of the event. As the group visited the Pennsylvania crash site, she said she was struck by the trinkets that covered the ground, and thought of the families of the victims.

She noticed one rider kneeling to dust off a stone with tears in his eyes.

"I cried twice just on the way here," said Kim Cadle, also of Akron.

Doug Dervin, 53, of Long Island, has been to Ground Zero many times, but he still is haunted by the memories. He wears a bracelet bearing the name of New York Fire Department Deputy Chief Ed Geraghty, a childhood friend who died Sept. 11.

"We all lost some friends," Dervin said. "We've come to pay tribute to them and the ones we didn't know, and let everyone know we still remember."

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