Stormy weather can’t stop 9/11 riders

The events of Sept. 11 2001 will not be forgotten in Lycoming County.

Undeterred by the rain, thousands of locals lined the streets to bear witness to the rolling memorial comprised of the 1,000 motorcyclists who rode in this year’s 9/11 Memorial Ride Wednesday evening.

Families huddled together under umbrellas to cheer and wave flags.

Many dressed up, and some families chose to tailgate as they watched the column of bikers ride past.

Boy Scout Troops, veterans and the elderly chose to stand together and bear witness to the ride, which is one of the largest memorials held in the state.

This support from the sidelines is a critical aspect of the ride, according to Tank Baird, president of the 9/11 Memorial Coalition, which hosts the event.

“It was heartwarming for me to see all those people standing out in the rain on the streets, especially in the rain. The people here get it, they understand why we ride and we bikers are so appreciative of that encouragement,” Baird said.

The dedicated bikers are determined to ride every year, rain or shine, Baird said.

The inclement weather did provide challenges for those on motorcycles.

“It’s not unsafe to ride in the rain, but it does increase the chances of having an incident. Everyone was on their best behavior and made it back here safely,” Baird said.

“It is just great to see all of those people as we go past. There’s nothing better than being able to give back the community in some way, and this is a great cause,” said biker Bruce Knull, of Montoursville.

This sentiment was echoed again and again by those who attended the ride.

“This country needs more of what we’re doing here tonight,” said biker Don Butter, of Nesbit.

The bikers carry with them “Wounded Warrior” cards as they ride, which are blessed by members of local clergy at a memorial service held just before the ride begins. This year’s cards contained the names of 6,000 casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rev. John K. Manno, of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Montoursville, was the keynote speaker at the memorial service. While addressing the crowd, he reflected on his time spent in the morgue and at the main hub of St. Paul’s Church at Ground Zero shortly after the attacks.

He recalled the steadfast determination and resilient spirit he witnessed from those impacted at Ground Zero, particularly fire fighters, police officers and first responders.

For Baird, who co-founded the ride back in 2001, this year’s success was a humbling moment.

“When this first started, I thought we’d have a few bikes the first few years. And maybe in five years or so there might be ten of us still going out on this anonymous ride, determined to remember,” Baird said.

“I am so amazed at how large this has become, and how many people tell me this is important to them. I could never have done any of this by myself. This amazing community has come together over the years because they understand how important it is that we never, ever forget,” he added.