READY TO ROLL
MONTGOMERY – Once again, the Clinton Township Volunteer Fire Company is preparing to host the 9/11 Memorial Motorcycle Ride, and it’s no small undertaking. It takes nearly a year’s worth of planning done entirely by volunteers to make the ride possible. The importance of the event makes it all worthwhile. According to Clinton Township Volunteer Fire Company Chief Todd Winder, “The ride is about small town patriotism, Americanism. You can knock us down, but we’re going to get back up fighting.”
Chief Winder stated that this year’s ride is the 15th time the ride has taken place, as the first one was held in the immediate aftermath on September 15, 2001. Estimates vary, but somewhere between 20 to 80 motorcycles took part in the event that first year. It was organized by Tank Baird and Don Miller, starting at the Federal Building in Williamsport and ending at the Foreign Legion in Duboistown.
The event grew and a non-profit coalition was formed by Baird and Gary Smith. Baird would call the local fire departments along the route to control the traffic. The Clinton Township Volunteer Fire Company would help with traffic along Routes 15 and 54. Eventually the starting point was moved to Bowman Field in Williamsport, and as the years went by, they were looking for a larger venue.
Winder suggested the Clinton Township fire hall but said that it would require a lot of left hand turns, which wouldn’t be in the best interest for the riders. A new route was planned, a thirty-seven mile loop that begins and ends in Montgomery at the fire hall and goes through nineteen different townships and municipalities in Lycoming County.
Planning for the 9/11 Memorial Ride is nearly a year long process. Beginning in January, monthly meetings are held, but as the event draws nearer, meetings are held two and three times a month. Winder said, “It’s quite an undertaking to pull this thing off . . . There are so many things between volunteers, traffic control, permit requirements. We can’t just hop on our motorcycles and go. There’s a lot involved.”
The outpouring of support from the community is touching for the riders. Some bikers have even been moved to tears as the ride ends. Many people line the route and wave American flags. Veterans will put on their dress uniforms and salute as the entire column of motorcycles pass. Current service members will be in uniform and fly the flag as well.
The ride is to remember the lives lost in the September 11 attacks, as well as the lost lives of the first responders. Winder said that the terrorist attacks are still claiming the lives of fire fighters who helped at Ground Zero in the aftermath as the long-term effects have caused some to develop cancer and lung problems.
The ride also honors the memory of American servicemen and women who have died fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Williamsport native Abram Howard was killed in action while serving in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan in 2010. The river bridge in Duboistown has since been renamed the Lance Corporal Abram Howard Memorial Bridge, and the ride will cross it. Winder says the hope is that the bridge will be lined with people waving flags in Howard’s memory.
This year’s ride will be this Sunday, September 11. Motorcycles are welcome to register beginning at 8:00 a.m. There is no fee for the ride. A faith-based service will be at 11:00, a memorial service will be held at 2:00, and the ride begins at 3:00.