Motorcyclists ride in honor of those lost on Sept. 11

Thousands of motorcyclists converged on Montgomery Saturday morning to begin the 42 mile ride to honor those lost in the 9/11 attacks on America.

The 9/11 Memorial Coalition Rolled out with thousands of bikes in-tow to commemorate 20 years since the attacks that shook America in the biggest ride since its inception a week after the attack.

Thomas “Tank” Baird is the president of the coalition, and said the event yielded more motorcyclists on Lycoming County roads than in years prior.

“It is safe to assume we had more than 3,000,” Baird said. “I hesitate to say this, but 5,000 is a nice, round number. There were spaces filled at Clinton Township that never were.”

To put that in perspective, the last of the motorcyclists left the Clinton Township Fire Station, where the 42-mile ride began, when the front of the line passed Tractor Supply at the Lycoming Mall.

A memorial service, previously described as the “heart and soul” of the memorial ride, began at 2 p.m. Saturday. Riders assembled in front of the fire station to hear remarks from Smith, Baird, State Rep. Joe Hamm and more.

Smith stated although the 9/11 Memorial Coalition is always an apolitical organization, thanks was owed to Congressman Fred Keller, who attended the event.

However, he specifically brought Hamm to the stage, saying “If it was not for his intervention, this ride may not have happened.”

Hamm worked on House Bill 765, which later turned into Act 36 of Pennsylvania, releasing the memorial coalition of needing to provide letters of indemnification from the municipalities the ride would travel through — a roadblock that prevented the ride from occurring in 2020, and almost impeded the ride this year.

Todd Winder, Clinton Township Fire Chief, also thanked Hamm.

“Who here likes politicians?” Winder asked the crowd to disagreeable tones.

“[Hamm] is one of the few who said he’d help, and helped,” Winder said. “Joe went above and beyond to get this done. He’s a new guy, a nobody, and he went to Harrisburg and told them ‘we have a problem up here.'”

“I don’t care if one person likes me in Harrisburg. I don’t care if one bureaucrat likes me. I’m going to fight for you everyday I’m in Harrisburg,” Hamm said. “It’s because of patriots like you that we’ll never forget the cowards who attacked our country on 9/11.”

When Baird took to the podium, he called Hamm’s work divine intervention.

“What you see out there on the road — that’s not what America could be, or should be. It’s what it is,” Baird told riders before they set off.

Clyde Hoch, the founder of “Veteran’s Brotherhood” and a former tank commander in the Vietnam conflict, delivered a speech toward the end of the service

Hoch was a tank commander during the height of the conflict in Vietnam, and suffers from both traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. He shared his own struggles with suicide, and offered words of encouragement for those who feel lost.

“God put us here for a purpose. It would not be right to cut that purpose short,” Hoch told the crowd. “You’re much stronger than you think, and the rewards in heaven will make it worthwhile.”

Smith wrapped up the service by reading the 13 names of the American servicemen who were killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan Aug. 26:

• Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts

• Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento, California

• Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah

• Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California

• Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska

• Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana

• Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas

• Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Missouri

• Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyoming

• Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, California

• Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California

• Navy Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio

• Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee

Smith then closed the memorial service by quoting the last audible words Todd Beamer, a passenger aboard United Airlines Flight 93, before civilians attacked hijackers and forced the plane to a landing in a Somerset County, Pennsylvania, field.

Dennis Miller, a 70-year-old Montgomery native, said being in the ride is his way of showing support for service people and those killed during the Sept. 11 attacks on America and the War on Terror.

“There’s never been I ride where I don’t have tears in my eyes from the people standing on the side,” Miller said. “It’s a community project all around.”

Steve Gioni, 62, of Osceola, Pennsylvania, showed up as a first-timer for the 20th anniversary to ride his first motorcycle ride.

“It’s exciting. A little daunting, but exciting. It’s something the American public needs to remember,” Gioni said.

Adrienne Bollinder, 60, traveled from New Hope in Bucks’ County to honor America and the fact it withdrew from Afghanistan not weeks prior to the ride.

“I don’t know how many women are here, but I’m one of them and I’m happy to honor the fallen people,” Bollinder said. “Thirteen fallen marines helped people out of Afghanistan.”

“I’m very honored to be here today with so many patriots remembering the individuals who perished when cowards attacked our nation,” Keller said after the service. “We will always remember those individuals.”

The ride went off with very few problems, according to Baird. The only incident of note was when a motorcyclist attempted to do a rolling burnout and fell off their motorcycle, Winder said.

The chase ambulance arrived at the scene only to find the motorcyclist had gotten back on their bike and continued with the ride.

“We’re thankful nobody was hurt, and they didn’t hurt anybody else,” Winder said. “Hopefully they learned a lesson to not do that again. Now is not the time for that.”

Baird said because 9/11 fell on a Saturday, the riders could set out earlier in the day, eliminating additional risk of vehicle incidents due to low visibility.

“We’ve been through this 20 times, but we work like hell to make it safe,” Baird said, adding he always tries to instill a sense of safety in attendees at the ride, and that all things considered, the memorial ride has a good record.

“What makes it a resounding success is we got everyone back,” Baird said, referring to the canceled 2020 ride. “There are two times (when) I feel the reason why we are here: when I hear the National Anthem and when I get on the motorcycle to go on that 42-mile trip through the county.”


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