When he stopped at Premium Outlets for lunch on Friday, Richard Pinnavaia — who was in the South Tower of the World Trade Center when it was hit in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — had his World Trade Center identification card with him, as well as a picture of a friend who died in the attacks.
“I wear it on the ride every year,” said Pinnavaia, who was participating in the annual America’s 9/11 motorcycle ride. “It’s a symbolic gesture on my part so that people know that not only was I there, but I also know someone who passed away.”
Pinnavaia, 67, said he worked on the 35th floor and got out of the tower about half an hour before it collapsed.
The Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., native said he knew many people who did not make it out.
Pinnavaia, who said he has been taking part in the 9/11 ride since 2003, is a member of the executive board of America’s 9/11 Foundation.
“It’s important that people don’t forget what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, and just to renew the spirit of America every year,” he said. “There are people on this ride who have been doing it, and they look forward to it every year, getting together with friends for no other reason but a tragedy that brought everybody together.”
Hundreds of riders began to arrive in Hagerstown shortly before noon Friday to fill up at the Sheetz and Exxon stations on Sharpsburg Pike and to eat lunch in the back parking lot of Premium Outlets.
The riders were on their way to Arlington, Va., where they were scheduled to stop for the day and visit the Pentagon, according to the America’s 9/11 Foundation website at www.americas911ride.org.
They began the ride in Somerset, Pa., and drove by the site of the Flight 93 crash Friday morning en route to Hagerstown. Saturday, they are scheduled to leave Arlington for New York City and will visit the World Trade Center site Sunday.
“This ride signifies that there are still people who really care about 9/11,” said Bruce Hughes, 59, of Mansfield, Ohio. “It is something that is going to live on the minds of Americans, hopefully forever.”
Hughes, who used to work as a police officer, rode to Hagerstown with his wife, Kay. They said this is their fourth year making the ride.
Kay Hughes, 53, who used to work as a 911 director, agreed that the ride keeps the memory of the attacks alive. Hughes said she was working with emergency response units on 9/11.
“When you work with police, fire, and EMS every day, you realize that when most people are running away, they’re running to (danger), and it hits home hard,” she said.
LeRoy Temple, 48, of Mount Sinai, N.Y., said he is taking part in the ride because he has friends on the police force who responded to the attacks.
“We have to make sure people realize that this should never happen again, and if it does happen again, we’ll be ready to take action,” he said.
The price of the ride was $150 for passengers, with the money going to providing riders with lunches and giving 15 children of active-duty first responders $2,000 college scholarships, said Lisa Sjurseth, co-founder and treasurer for America’s 9/11 Foundation.
Sjurseth said that up to 550 riders were expected to make the trip this year, many of whom make the ride every year.
“Every year it’s like a family reunion,” she said. “It just helps keep the spirit of our patriotism and the love of our country.”
Sjurseth said the ride is held each year in August so the riders do not affect the families of victims visiting the 9/11 sites in September.
“That’s their time,” she said. “That’s where they lost their family members, and we don’t want to impose in any way on that time.”
The lunch was provided by SS Gregory & Barnabas Parish Church of Johnstown, Pa.
Teresa Toth, church member and board member for America’s 9/11 Foundation, said that this is the church’s first year providing the lunch.
“We need to give back to the community, everyone needs a helping hand, and the 9/11 Foundation is such a great cause,” she said. “It’s helping us never forget what happened on that day and also the support of our first responders.”
Spectators turned out Friday to get a glimpse of the motorcycles filling the Premium Outlets back parking lot.
Dennis Stouffer of Boonsboro was there with his wife, Vickie, and his 1-year old grandson, Daniel. Stouffer said he saw the motorcycles going by once before while he was on the Appalachian Trail.
“That was amazing, they just kept coming and coming,” he said. “This is just showing patriotism.”
Chad Easterday, 33, of Oakland, Md., who was on his way back home with his son and a friend from Baltimore, stopped at Premium Outlets to see the motorcycles go by.
“Motorcycling is a big passion for me, and we wanted to see a whole bunch of them together,” he said. “This makes me enjoy the country that I live in, and what it stands for.”