That was the spirit of the annual 9/11 Memorial Ride, hosted on Tuesday by the 9/11 Coalition. As many as 3,000 motorcyclists turned out for the event, which featured a ride through the eastern part of the county that started and ended at the Clinton Township fire hall.
"It's to honor those who have fallen at Ground Zero, Shanksville and the Pentagon and also to bring attention to our first responders," said Gary Smith, coalition vice president. "We also want also bring attention to veterans - the people doing their jobs so we have the freedom to do whatever we want."
Bikers head down Route 54 during the 9/11 Memorial Ride in Montgomery Tuesday
Thomas "Tank" Baird is the coalition president and founder of the ride, which began as an impromptu gathering of bikers who met only days after the attacks. The group met in front of the Federal Building in Williamsport and rode in an act of defiance, Baird said.
"The first (ride), there was a lot of shock and anger and all kinds of emotions," Baird said.
"For the first ride, four days after the attacks, it was fists in the air," said coalition board member Dan Farr. "Everybody was angry. I don't think we'd even sorted it out, yet."
Eleven years later, the mood of the ride has changed from anger to reverence, Baird said.
"We're in it to remember the victims of the attack," Baird said. "We're in it to honor the soldiers still fighting the war on terror."
"This is just a reminder that we should never forget what's happened to this country and the way things have changed in the last 12 years since the attacks," said Mickey Finn, a retired state police trooper and coalition board member. "I think (the ride) has made people aware that we depend so much on our military. The ride is a constant reminder of the lives that were lost."
Riders were given "Fallen Heroes" prayer cards. According to the Rev. John Manno, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Montoursville, 1,500 cards were distributed, each bearing the names of four soldiers killed in the war on terror. The cards were made by local company Labels by Pulizzi Inc., Manno said.
"The bikers cherish those things," Manno said of the cards.
Company employee Michael Porter was responsible for gathering names for the cards, Manno said. When Manno went to get the cards, Porter brought them to him with tears in his eyes, he said.
"I said a prayer with Mike and lit a candle," Manno said. "I put the candle in the car and kept it lit the whole drive back to the church."
There is something uniquely American about a motorcycle and something very powerful when a large number of bikers get together to ride, Baird said.
The message behind the ride is most important, however, he said.
"A column of motorcycles is one of the most powerful mediums you can have," Baird said. "It gets people's attention, but that's the medium, not the message. The message is, 'never forget.' "
Among the riders was Steve Stine, of Montoursville. Stine was on hand with his wife, Jane, and son, Shane.
"This shows that we want to maintain our freedom and that we are not afraid of those sons of b......," Stine said.
David "Many Fights" Himmelreich, a Fairfield Township resident and member of the Eastern Delaware Indian Nation, offered his thoughts about the ride.
"For me, it's just people uniting together, standing up for what we believe in, standing up for one another and remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice so we can have the freedoms we have today," he said.
Todd Winder, chief of the Clinton Township Volunteer Fire Co., said the event is one that transcends political affiliations.
"This isn't Republican or Democrat thing," Winder said. "This is a day of remembrance. Terrorists did not attack Republicans or Democrats, they attacked Americans. They attacked our ideals and way of life."
"We're all in the same boat riding down the same stream," Stine said.
Following a brief memorial service, riders dispersed to their parked motorcycles to begin the ride. A county sheriff's vehicle and a National Guard Humvee were at the vanguard of the group as it left the fire hall.
The course wound its way from the fire hall to South Williamsport via Route 15, then through Williamsport, Loyalsock Township, Montoursville, Hughesville, Muncy and Montgomery before returning to the fire hall.
People lining the course waved flags, held signs and cheered the riders as they passed by. Riders responded with waves, honking horns and revved engines.
Montgomery resident Doris Botts was waiting along the highway about a half mile from the fire hall.
"I think it's great," Botts said of the ride. "I think they should continue it, too. It gets everybody involved so we don't forget 9/11."
Botts was accompanied by her son, Jack; Jack's wife, Cynthia, and their 4-year-old son, Nicholas; her daughter, Kristy Phillips, and Phillips' children, Felicia, 16, and Michael, 11. They held flags and homemade signs with the words "Never Forget 9/11" and "God Bless America" on them.
Botts said she has been a spectator at every ride and even got out of work early one year so she could see it.
In Williamsport, city resident Joshua Herlt stood waiting in his military uniform.
As the riders emerged over the crest of the Market Street Bridge and rode to the intersection of Market and Third streets, Herlt snapped to attention and saluted. He stood there in that pose for the entire half hour it took for the procession to make its way past him.
Nearby, Bill Bouse, his girlfriend Jen Reedy and friends Mary Quartman and Linda Thompson, stood on the back of a pickup truck, waving flags and cheering.
"I'm here to support everyone who supports us by securing the way we live," Bouse said. "This is about the third time we've watched it. I've ridden in it. It's great on both sides."