MONTGOMERY – It’s one of only a few days out of the year when conflict is forgotten. The clock turns back to Sept. 11, 2001, and Americans remember when the largest terrorist attack in the United States caused differences to be set aside as communities came together in support and solidarity.
“It’s amazing to see. For at least this day, everybody stops hating each other and stops fighting on Facebook and it just gets done and it’s great,” said Clinton Township Fire Chief Todd Winder.
Growing each year, the Lycoming County 9/11 Memorial Motorcycle Ride, is one of the largest rolling memorial tributes to the first responders and military lives lost on and after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The first ride took place just a few days after the attacks by some key founding members of the 9/11 Memorial Coalition, most notably Father John Manno. Manno passed away in May and this year’s ride served as a memorial to him as much as a reminder of the tragedy 18 years ago.
Manno was the “guiding light” for the 9/11 ride through the years, Winder said, and while he’ll be missed in the future, he will always be a part of the ride.
A billboard dedicated to Manno was unveiled at the ceremony, with a photo of the father leaning against his Harley, “Fred,” and his signature phrase, “God bless you all, let’s roll.”
The Rev. Gary Shipman will take over Manno’s roll in the coalition, but said they are big shoes to fill.
“I’m going to endeavor to do the best that I can,” Shipman said. He highlighted Manno’s dedication to the Fallen Heros cards, each with four names of first responders and military personnel, asking that attendees of the ceremony continue to carry the cards with them for the next year.
Tom “Tank” Baird, president of the 9/11 Memorial Coalition, and Winder, also shared their memories of Manno, dating back to the beginning of the 9/11 ride.
“He was unapologetic about the inconvenience. He understood that there was never anything meaningfully spiritual that doesn’t come with some sacrifice,” Baird said. “He was a ‘get up, get out and do something kind of guy.”
For many of the riders, keeping the memory of Sept. 11 alive is key to honoring the lives lost and making sure the nation remembers that freedom can’t be taken for granted.
“I think if you don’t do it every year like they’ve been doing it, it will get forgotten just like everything else,” said Randy Mccauley, assistant fire chief at the Pennsdale Volunteer Fire Department.
Hesitant to put a number of the amount of bikes at the ride, Winder is pleased to see the crowd grow each year.
The 42-mile ride starts and ends in Montgomery every year, as it has for the past nine years. It involves law enforcement and fire departments from throughout the county and Winder said it would not be possible without the support of the people and businesses in Montgomery.