The roar of thousands of motorcycle engines will once again rumble through the city and surrounding neighborhoods, during the twelfth annual 9-11 Memorial Motorcycle Ride held Sept. 11 at 6 p.m. beginning at the Clinton Township Volunteer Fire Co. This year, a new route will allow bikers to travel right through downtown Williamsport - a sight that many missed last year due to a change in the route.
"In a sense, we are bringing the ride back to the city this year," said Tank Baird, president of the 911 Memorial Coalition and co-founder of the event.
"This is probably the biggest section of the city we've done in four or five years," he added.
The ride is held each year in remembrance of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
"It was a terrible day for America, and we don't want people to forget that. We felt we had to do something," Baird said.
"Any group of motorcycles heading down the road can be a powerful sight. We want to use that symbol to remind people that they should never forget," he added.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: 9-11 Memorial Motorcycle Ride
WHEN: Sept. 11; Service at 5:30, Ride starts at 6 p.m.
WHERE: Clinton Township Volunteer Fire Co.
Baird and Don Miller organized that first ride, held just four days after the attacks. About 85 bikers attended that first event.
Over the years, the ride has grown popular. Last year, more than 5,000 motorcycles rolled through the streets. But many in downtown Williamsport were sorry to see that the bikers missed most of the city on their route.
"Last year, due to problems with traffic control in the city of Williamsport, we just went across the Market Street bridge and headed down to Loyalsock," Baird said.
"I got a lot of calls after the ride last year. A lot of people were unhappy about the change," he added.
Baird said that the motorcycles serve as a "rolling memorial" to those who died on Sept. 11, 2001. However, the motorcycles passing is only one small piece of the memorial.
"You wouldn't believe the support we get from pedestrians standing on the roadsides waving and holding signs. They are the other half of the story. It's always a very emotional ride," he said.
This year, organizers have been able to work with city police and the Mayor's office to determine a new route.
"We have come up with a plan that will allow us to ride right through South Side, into DuBoistown and across the Lance Cpl. Abram L. Howard Memorial Bridge. Then we will hit Third Street and go all the way through the city," Baird said.
The ride will begin and end at the Clinton Township volunteer fire hall. Before the ride, a memorial service will be held, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the fire hall. The public is invited to attend.
The ride, which is free for participants, will begin promptly at 6 p.m. The length of the ride will be determined by number of participants. After the ride, the public is invited to come back to the fire hall.
"Afterwards, people are invited to come back out to the fire hall. There will be food and a big time of fellowship," Baird said.
The event should end around 10 p.m., according to Baird.