United Airlines Flight 93 routinely took off from Newark International Airport bound for San Francisco, but this day was anything but routine. On this day, September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked the plane with intentions believed to be crashing it into the White House or the U.S. Capitol Building. Their plans were foiled when the 40 passengers and crew on cell phones heard that other jet liners had crashed into the two World Trade Center towers in New York and into the Pentagon in Washington. Knowing they had nothing to lose--and much to prevent--they rose up against the hijackers, with the result that the plane was flown into the ground near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, with no survivors.
Ten years later, a group of motorcyclists set out from Flight 93’s destination, San Francisco, on a ride to Shanksville timed to reach that spot at the very time the plane crashed exactly 10 years earlier. Dubbed the Ride With The Forty, the eight core riders coming from San Francisco--including two who had family members on board the flight--met up in Indianapolis with another group coming from San Diego for the completion of their journey. Along the way, they were met and escorted by biker organizations and individual riders offering their support.
As the group approached Colorado, members of the Rocky Mountain Harley Owners Group (HOG) rode out to Green River, Utah, to meet them. The riders were escorted to Denver, where a spread was put on for them at Rocky Mountain Harley-Davidson. The next morning they were escorted through Denver and on to the Nebraska state line.
We caught up with the group in Denver and had the opportunity to talk with a couple of the organizers.
Ken Nacke’s brother, Louis J. Nacke II, was a passenger on the flight. It was Nacke who conceived the idea for the Ride With The Forty which, in addition to keeping alive the memories of the 40 on board, is aimed at raising money to complete the Flight 93 National Memorial that is under construction at the site of the crash. The group’s website includes the biographies of the 40 and tells of the fateful day, as well as providing information about the construction of the memorial.
“Go to the website and learn about the 40 heroes of Flight 93; that's the most important thing,” says Nacke. “It's all about them. It’s not about us. It’s all about honoring the lives of the 40 heroes of Flight 93.”
Of the memorial, he notes, “Most people know it's being built, but not the status of it, or how much fundraising still needs to be done. Can you imagine raising money to build a White House or a U.S. Capitol Building instead of raising money to build a memorial to honoring the heroes of Flight 93? Try to think of what our country would look like today. If they didn't stand up and fight, where would our country be today?”
An additional $10 million is needed to complete the 2,200-acre, $70 million project. The memorial itself was dedicated on September 10 of this year, but the grounds are not finished.
Nacke describes it: “I encourage everybody . . . I know it's a long ride, a long trip, but I try to tell everybody that they should go out there and make the journey to Shanksville, PA. It's one of those things you can put on your bucket list. Go out there and see it, experience it. It makes you wander. It's a very simplistic design, the land speaks for itself. It's a fitting memorial to honor the 40 heroes of Flight 93.”
While the Nacke brothers, as kids “had all the toys--snowmobiles, mini-bikes, dirt bikes, you name it,” Ken has only recently gotten back into riding. “When you start your families you've got to do certain things, you know what I mean, and give things up. So we rode as kids and as we moved on with our lives we didn't, we did other things. I've been riding for probably the last five or six years.”
On the ride, says Rae Killebrew-Amadio, who helped organize things, the other riders felt Nacke and Erich Bay, whose wife was a flight attendant on Flight 93, should ride in the lead.
“We try to put them up front; they don't want to be. We say you have to be, and Ken says, ‘No, I’m just here to honor my brother.’ And I say, then honor him by riding first.”
By Ken Bingenheimer