CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — With the words "Destination Ground Zero" handwritten on a piece of cardboard on his back and carrying an oversized American flag, Joe "Tiger" Patrick was quite a sight as he walked on the sidewalk along U.S. 30 on Monday afternoon.
The 48-year-old from Peace Dale, R.I., is on a mission to pay his respects to those who lost their lives in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"It's a nonpolitical walk for me. It's all about love and expressing my honor for the folks who passed. It's just a way that I can touch people and feel complete. I'm feeling that with each step," Patrick said.
He has embarked on his journey alone. So far, he has visited two of the crash sites — the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa.
In the evenings, Patrick stays in local hotels. At dawn, he starts his 20-plus mile trek each day to his goal of New York.
On Monday, he left McConnellsburg, Pa., and walked about 22 miles to Chambersburg, where he planned to spend the night in a local hotel.
Tuesday, he'll leave Chambersburg and travel through Gettysburg, Pa., on his journey for ground zero. The total trip is expected to cover more than 650 miles.
"I volunteered at ground zero 10 years ago for three weeks, and I left feeling kind of sad and incomplete," Patrick said. "I just felt I had to do something this year at the 10-year anniversary. I had to get the hate and the anger and the sadness out."
Patrick, who said he served as an Army sergeant during Desert Storm, said the walk has helped him heal.
"It (the response) has been unbelievably positive with people stopping, taking pictures and beeping (their horns)," he said.
On his back, he carries a backpack with a turnout coat from his local fire department signed by all the firefighters as well as all the first responders he has encountered during the trip.
When he arrives at his destination, he'll give the turnout coat to Station 54, which lost many of its firefighters on 9/11.
He also wears dog tags around his neck as well as rubber washers from each of the crash sites.
Patrick said he is active in Special Olympics and wants everyone to know that "one person can make a difference."