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Community remembers Father Manno at 9/11 Memorial Ride

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette 9-11 Ride organizer Tank Baird tells stories of the late Father John Manno before the start of the annual 9-11 Ride Wednesday.

This year’s 9/11 Memorial Ride was not only in rememberance of those lost to the tragedy of 9/11, but of the loss of Father John Manno, who died unexpectedly in May.

The event started with a memorial service in his honor Wednesday.

The Rev. Gary Smith, Tom “Tank” Baird, president of the 9/11 memorial coalition, and Todd Winder, fire chief of Clinton Township, shared their memories with Manno and honored his generous spirit and mission in life.

“Anyone that knew him knew that he was larger than life,” Winder said. “He was the type of person that would do anything for you or anyone. Father Manno was our guiding light.”

“Reflection (was) a favorite word and experience recommended by Father John Manno,” Baird said.

He reflected on the day that he met Manno along the road on his bike. Manno was in a car with nuns at the time and asked Baird to come over to the car. Baird remembered that Manno gave him a laminated card that read, “If Jesus Were a Biker.”

Many of the locals riding Wednesday had the same card.

“In Father Manno fashion, I got a word for you all — gratitude,” Baird added. “I’m grateful for living in a country where we can gather like this and speak our mind. I’m grateful for our veterans, I’m grateful today to be amongst so many patriots.”

As a billboard with Manno photo and famous line, “Let’s roll,” was presented, Smith left the riders and community members with a final statement:

“It’s a memorial, not just for Father John, but for each and every one of you for taking the time out of your day to honor what this ride is for,” he said. “In the words of Father John, ‘God bless you all, let’s roll.’ “

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