‘Just a lot of love’: Bikers unite for 17th annual 9/11 ride

Bikers unite for 17th annual 9/11 ride

KATELYN HIBBARD/Sun-Gazette Red, white and blue spread as far as the eye can see down a wave of motorcycles on West Third Street during the 17th annual 9/11 Memorial Coalition ride Monday evening. Hundreds of riders waved American flags and flashed peace signs to viewers of all ages lining the street. The tradition calls for remembrance of those lost in the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. This year, motorcyclists also rode in honor of those soldiers who have lost their lives since the attacks as well as of those living with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Motorcycles filled the road Monday in front of the Clinton Township Fire Co. in Montgomery as riders from around the nation prepared to join the 17th annual 9/11 Memorial Coalition ride.

The bikers rode to remember those who lost their lives in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and in the wars that followed.

The attendance surprised organizers, who usually expect a weekday to cause a low turnout.

“We have a crowd. For a weekday, we have a crowd,” said founding member of the ride, Thomas “Tank” Baird.

Years later, Baird still is amazed by the turnout the ride gets. “It is entirely the opposite of what I thought after all these years,” he said of the thousands who ride.

The event began with a memorial dedicated to those who died during the attacks as well as members of the armed forces who have perished in the subsequent military actions. Local Korean War veterans offered a 21-gun salute and two guests spoke: Marc Cavalli, of the Joint Task Force 22 to 0, a nonprofit that offers an ear to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder; and Alivia Tagliaferri, the filmmaker of “Remember. Honor. Ride.,” a documentary focusing on the creation of the 9/11 Memorial Ride.

The Retired Father John Manno then introduced the Fallen Warrior cards that the 9/11 Memorial Coalition gives to riders every year. On the cards are names of soldiers who sacrificed their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“This card that you’re holding, we’ve been doing it for 16 years, let us never forget that on this card you are carrying the names of mothers, fathers, friends and hometowns,” Manno said. “Those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the country ever since 9/11.”

No matter if it was before or after the moving memorial, many bikers already were emotional for the upcoming event.

“I can’t ride this without crying,” Ginger Frankenberger, of Mill Hall, said.

Frankenberger and her husband both have participated in the memorial for most of the years it has existed and they still are surprised by the people who come out for it.

“For me, the most memorable was after a flood one September … people were covered in mud and moving all of their things outside, but they all waved clean flags. That was amazing,” Dave Frankenberger said.

For many county residents, the memorial ride is a chance to show solidarity and to join the riders outside, waving flags as they pass by.

“I was flabbergasted. I think the crowd increased by 30 to 40 percent. We’ve never seen this many people here,” Baird saidof the number of people in various communities who came to cheer on the motorcyclists.

“I remember watching it (the attacks) on television. I cried through the whole thing. It’s great how the community comes together. To set it up and everything, they do a great job. That’s America, that’s how our people care,” Barbara Weaver, of Montoursville, said.

In Montoursville, when the 9/11 Memorial Ride bikers pass by, they can expect the chiming of hand bells from members of Bethany Lutheran Church, who have joined the crowd outside and rang bells for the victims of 9/11 for as long as the ride has driven by.

“Just to honor those that gave their lives,” said Ruth Lundy, a member of Bethany Lutheran Church.

“There are people that come out here with no bell-playing skills,” said Larry Barnard, a member of the church.

“Just a lot of love,” Lundy added.

For the bikers, seeing the people on the streets responding to the ride and joining in makes it all the better.

“Seeing the support … that there’s people who remember what we lost. We lost so many that we shouldn’t take for granted,” said Mary Meade, of Millville.