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

August 17, 2012|By CALEB CALHOUN |
  • One motorcyle shows it's honor to one that died at the World Trade Center on 9/11.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

Ken Fairben, who lost his only son in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, stopped at Premium Outlets in Hagerstown for lunch Friday along with hundreds of other motorcyclists as part of the annual America’s 9/11 ride.

“It’s very emotional, and the support is phenomenal,” Fairben said. “This is how we keep the memory of Sept. 11 alive.”

Fairben, 63, of Floral Park, N.Y., is the commissioner of the Floral Park Fire Department. He said that his son, Keith, was a paramedic at New York Cornell Presbyterian Hospital and was on the scene during the attacks. He was 23 when he died.

Fairben said he learned to ride a motorcycle after his son’s death and started taking part in the 9/11 ride in 2003.

“It’s like I’m representing Keith as long as his memory lives on,” he said. “We ride for each one of those individuals who died.”

Hundreds of motorcyclists rolled through Washington County on Friday as part of the annual event. The main body of the group began to arrive at Hagerstown Premium Outlets at about 11:45 a.m.

They were en route to the Pentagon, and the ride included stops at all three sites of the terrorist attacks.

“This is just an awesome experience,” rider Joseph Pentito, 65, of Amherst, Ohio, said. “It’s humbling. We’re here to honor the people killed on Sept. 11.”

This is the 12th ride organized by America’s 911 Foundation to support emergency responders and honor the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. According to its website,, motorcyclists began their ride Thursday night en route to the Flight 93 Memorial. They left from Somerset, Pa., at 7:15 a.m. Friday, made a quick stop at Rocky Gap State Park, and then rode to Hagerstown.

After going to the Pentagon, the riders were scheduled to leave at 7:15 a.m. Saturday, stop at the Maryland House on I-95 north of Baltimore around 9:30 a.m., and head into New York City.

A World Trade Center ceremony is scheduled for Sunday morning.

“The ride makes you realize how great this country is,” rider Frank Bania, 43, of Long Island, N.Y. said. “It makes you proud to be an American.”

Upwards of 600 people took part in the ride this year, according to Rick Flick, vice president of America’s 9/11 Foundation. The cost was $120.

“This is a reflection of the days since Sept. 11,” said Flick, vice president of America's 9/11 Foundation. “It brings back the general perception that there’s somebody out there that cares for us.”

Members of the Cover Hill Volunteer Fire Co. in Johnstown, Pa., set up two tents and tables in the back parking lot of the outlets to provide lunch to the motorcyclists.

A section of the parking lot was blocked off for riders to park, according to Lt. Tim Freiwald of the Cover Hill Volunteer Fire Co.

“A lot of people come out and support the  9/11 Foundation,” Freiwald said. “There's a lot of bikes.”

Spectators turned out to watch the riders arrive.

Hagerstown resident Harold Smith Jr., 38, said this was his second year showing up to watch the event.

“We need to not forget about all the families that were affected on 9/11,” he said. “I think it’s important to come out and support these guys.”

Tara Thompson, 30, also of Hagerstown, said that this was her second year attending, and she brought her children, David, 4, and Caitlyn, 3. She said her husband is a police officer, her father and brother are firefighters, and she has another brother who is an Iraqi war veteran.

“Seeing this reminds me of the brotherhood of the firefighters and police department,” she said. “Anytime something happens, they all come together.”

The advance team of motorcyclists, which deals with fueling the bikes, arrived in Hagerstown at 10:53 a.m. and set up fueling stations at the Exxon and Sheetz gas stations on Md. 65.

A firetruck from the Mount Kisco Volunteer Fire Department in Westchester County, N.Y., and a firetruck from the Leesburg (Va.) Volunteer Fire Co. were both at the site.

Rider Stash Kowalewski of New Haven, Conn., was doing the ride for the sixth time, and he showed up at Premium Outlets early after his motorcycle had mechanical problems in Somerset. When they got the problem fixed, he went straight to Hagerstown instead of stopping with the riders.

Kowalewski, who is a volunteer firefighter, said he lost a cousin on Sept. 11.

“There was no reason for that to happen,” he said. “This is a ride we can all participate in that keeps everybody’s minds on what happened 11 years ago.”

Stash’s cousin, 33-year old Nicole Kowalewski, rode with him for the first time.

After lunch, the riders were scheduled to travel east on I-70, then on southbound U.S. 15 into Virginia and eastbound I-66 to the Pentagon.

Jane Hudson, manager at the AC&T store that sold the Exonn gas, said the ride has been great for business and can be great for the county.

“It helps us out because we have an increase in gas sales and they buy a lot of things in the store,” she said. “I’m sure they’re probably interested in things about Washington County. They may come back.”

Around 12:50 p.m. Friday, the riders began to leave and get back on the interstate.

America’s 9/11 Foundation, according to its website, was founded in 2001 and is based in Leesburg. It funds scholarship programs for children of active first responders, provides assistance to departments in need of equipment and physically assists first responders.

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