A dream born out of the nightmare of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has come to fruition this week as representatives from the Sept. 11 National Memorial Trail Alliance visited the region on their historic bicycle ride from western Pennsylvania to New York.
“On Sept. 11, 2001, there was a group of state officials who were doing trail work up and down the East Coast and they were planning to hold a big conference in Arlington, Virginia, less than a mile from the Pentagon,” said Eric Brenner of Silver Spring, Maryland, one of the new trail’s inaugural riders. “They debated whether or not to hold it, but they went ahead with it and 700 people showed up. It was in the days following the attacks, so they wanted to figure out what they could do to honor the people who died that day. They wanted to see if they could create a trail to connect the three sites.”
“I don’t think there is anyone standing here today, except for those who had not yet been born, who can’t remember where they were the moment they heard the news of the Sept. 11 attacks,” said state Rep. Rich Irvin. “It’s fitting that we are going to form a trail to connect the three areas in which the disasters occurred, just as the disasters united us in 2001 as citizens and as a country. Now, more than ever, in the uncertainty of this time and age, it’s very important that we remain standing together united.”The riders began their trek at the Great Allegheny Passage in the western part of the state Sept. 10 and attended the official dedication of the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville. They arrived at the Alexandria trail head of the Lower Trail Sunday afternoon and continued on to Portstown Park, Huntingdon, where they were given a heroes’ welcome at the borough’s First Responders Memorial and greeted by local elected officials, community members, Huntingdon area first responders and members of the American Legion/VFW joint color and honor guard.
Huntingdon County Commissioner Gary O’Korn asked those assembled at the memorial to observe a moment of silence to remember those first responders lost during the attacks.
“Huntingdon County is honored to be a stop on this historic trail ride,” said Huntingdon County Commissioner Jeff Thomas. “It’s a fitting tribute to those who lost their lives on that tragic day. Where there was devastation, there is now beauty. Where there was hate, there is now hope. As riders and visitors travel the trail, they will remember the strength of our nation’s people.”
Huntingdon Borough Mayor Dee Dee Brown presented a plaque created by Butch Griffith of Huntingdonto honor those first responders lost Sept. 11, 2001, to be affixed to Huntingdon First Responders Memorial.
“Sept. 11 has been declared a national holiday and we want to honor those who died that tragic day,” said Brown. “Butch Griffith and (his wife) Arlene have made a plaque for us in honor of the first responders who died that day. It reads, ‘On 9/11/2015, Huntingdon area first responders honor the first responders of 9/11/2001.’”
The hope is that the biking trail will expand through connections to become a multi modal corridor, with a driving route as well, which will allow visitors to travel easily between the Flight 93 Memorial, the site of the World Trade Center memorial and the Pentagon memorial.
“We’re traveling on something that’s much bigger than a trail,” said Sept. 11 National Memorial Trail Alliance member and cyclist Andrew Hamilton of Philadelphia. “This is really about remembering all of the people lost and all of the people affected by those who were lost. It is something that is going to bring communities together.”
A potluck dinner made possible through donations from the Frank P. Hommon American Legion Post 24, Standing Stone VFW Post 1754 and the Loyal Order of the Moose Lodge 223, all in Huntingdon, followed the ceremony. The riders departed Huntingdon this morning and traveled through Mapleton to the Mount Union Area High School, where they participated in a student assembly.
April can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.