Four days after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 about 85 motorcycle riders living in Clinton Township, Pennsylvania wanted to send a statement of protest that America won't back down. So, they saddled up and went for a ride.
They also coined the phrase so often heard around this time of year - "We will never forget."
On Wednesday, the 911 Memorial Coalition's 12th annual 911 Memorial Motorcycle Ride departs from the Clinton Township Fire Company in Montgomery, PA on a 42-mile tour with more than 5,000 motorcyclists expected.
"We have the largest 9/11 continuous ride in the United States," said Gary Smith, vice president of the coalition.
Smith joined the ride in 2002 which boasted 200 riders. As it continued to grow, ride founders Tom Miller and Tank Baird started thinking long-term and with Smith's help, formed the 911 Memorial Coalition as a non-profit group. They started promoting the ride, developed guidelines and officially adopted their now-famous mission statement.
"We put the coalition together to remember those who died on 9-11 but also to remember current first responders," Smith said. "People generally don't really appreciate these individuals throughout the year."
The 911 Memorial Motorcycle Ride is free and any donations and proceeds from the Coalition's merchandise offset the $10,000 cost to organize the ride. Leftover funds help families of local first responders killed in the line of duty.
"The heart of the ride is the memorial service," Smith said.
The service begins at 5:30 and all in attendance receive "Fallen Warrior" cards listing the names of those who died on September 11, 2001 as well as those killed in Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. Riders carry these cards from one year to the next as a way to remember the fallen.
The service concludes at approximately 6 p.m. at which time the priest from a local parish commences the ride by proclaiming "Let's Roll" - paying homage to Todd Beamer's last words before he and other passengers crashed Flight 93 in Somerset Township, PA. The fully police-escorted route takes approximately an hour.
The ride is so big now it's an event for local townspeople who wait alongside the road outside their homes. Smith, who rides a 2010 fully tricked-out Gold Wing, likens it to a giant 42-mile long tailgate party lined with people raising flags. Last year motorcyclists from nine states took part.
"It's probably one of the most patriotic rides I am aware of," Smith said. "It symbolizes hometown America and what we stand for."
The 911 Memorial Motorcycle Ride starts at the Clinton Township Volunteer Fire Company, 2311 Route 54 Highway in Montgomery, PA. Gates open at 2 p.m. and the memorial service starts at 5:30 p.m. Riders return to the start for an after party with music, food and vendors. Download the Ride Waiver form online and bring to the registration table.
Other Rides Scheduled this Weekend
9/11 Memorial RideSeptember 11: Independence Harley-Davidson in College Station, Texas hosts their annual ride to remember the events of September 11. A police escorted ride to Veteran's Park begins around 11:15 a.m. Wednesday at Harley-Davidson, 4101 Texas Hwy 6 South in College Station. A ceremony begins at 12:15 p.m. and lunch is provided.
9/11 Memorial Poker Run September 14: The Veterans of Foreign Wars District 23 in Riverside, CA benefits from this ride presented by the Foreign Wars Motorcycle Club - Inland Empire Chapter. Pre-registration is closed. Register in person from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Saturday at Rainbow Oaks Restaurant, 4815 5th St. in Rainbow, CA.
9/11 Poker Run and Benefit September 14: The Red Knights Motorcycle Club - LA Chapter 1 hosts this 12th annual poker run that supports the club's 911 Foundation. Online registration is close. Register in person at 9 a.m. Saturday at Boomtown Casino, 4132 Peters Road in Harvey, LA.
9/11 Motorcycle Tribute Rally & Run September 14: This 6th annual ride by the American Legion Riders District 2 benefits the 9/11 Tucson Memorial Fund and the Honor Flight Program. Registration starts at 9 a.m. Saturday at Tucson Harley-Davidson, 7355 N. I-10 EB Frontage Road in Tucson, AZ. Kickstands up at 10 a.m.
9/11 Poker Run September 14: Oregon Veterans Motorcycle Association hosts this 11th annual run that benefits the Bend VFW Post.
Patriot Run September 14: Registration for the Rough Riders MC's 3rd annual Patriot Run begins at 12 p.m. Saturday at the Anderson VFW Post 5996, 1905 Hwy 29N in Anderson, SC.
Ride for Angels September 14: The Thunder Mountain Wind & Fire MC hosts this 11th annual poker run that benefits Angel Faces, a non-profit for adolescent girls with severe facial disfigurements. Registration is from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at Moto Adventure, 6385 Byrd Dr. in Loveland, CO. Kickstands up at 10 a.m.
Ride for Kids September 15: Ride for Kids benefits the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and features numerous rides throughout the country during the year. This weekend kickstands are up in Philadelphia and Tulsa, OK.