Women Riders

Sons of the American Legion 2010 Iron Run – Greenville, Pennsylvania

Written by  October 31, 2010

Riding with the Patriot Guard these past four years has given me some wonderful moments of participation in things I would otherwise know nothing about. A recent run to escort a piece of the World Trade Center to its final resting place in a memorial in Greenville, Pennsylvania was one of those times.
The Sons of the American Legion, Squadron 184 out of East Greenville began a lengthy process to procure a piece of the World Trade Center to be placed in a memorial they had built. Hangar 17, located at JFK airport in New York, is the resting place for everything salvaged from the September 11 attacks. From crushed police cars to letterheads, to steel beams, everything is kept, catalogued and, in some cases, cleaned and restored in this hangar. Requests for memorabilia come from all over the country, and the process to obtain something, anything, is not that easy.
Once the request was considered, representatives from the American Legion squadron were invited to Hangar 17 to take a tour and be given their item. In this case, it was an iron beam, about 14 feet long weighing 6300 pounds. The release of the beam had to be approved by a US District Court judge. They also went into agreement with the Port Authority that their squadron would adhere to stated motives and release the Port Authority from any liability or costs. Hangar 17 will never be open to the public; only those who have been awarded a section or memento from the World Trace Center are invited in. A total of 1100 pieces of memorial steel are to be released, worldwide. All donated pieces are still considered evidence, and part of the agreement with the Port Authority is that no item will be used for personal reasons, including profit.
The plan was that the beam would be escorted by a large motorcycle procession back to the Post where it would be committed to a beautiful memorial that is filled with appropriate symbolism. The piece will be prepared and then welded and bolted onto the existing memorial within days of its arrival with an official rededication scheduled for Veterans Day 2010.
The Sons expected a couple of hundred bikes. The final count, by the NJ State Police, was approximately 2,500. Past "Iron Runs," which they refer to as "a mass funeral procession for our fallen 9/11 victims," had been growing in recent years, but this particular run was open to the public. And the public obliged. The beam, secured on the back of a flatbed truck, waited at the final staging place, the Courtyard Marriott in Newark, New Jersey. The full run began in East Greenville, about 100 miles northwest. American Legion Riders, Blue Knights, Patriot Guard Riders and Reading Motorcycle Club were just a few of the groups participating. New Jersey State Police gave a full escort from the NJ/PA border to the Marriott and, after organizing 2,500 bikes surrounding the hotel, escorted everyone back. The ride included a stop for gas at a large roadside "truck stop"; more than half the bikes gassed up, much to the dismay of weary travelers and the delight of the truck stop owners. While some broke off the pack to head home, the majority stayed with the three-hour journey back to East Greenville, where we were greeted by townsfolk lining the streets, waving flags and cheering.
The run was led by the "Engine 911" memorial fire truck, once owned by NYFD fireman Eric Olsen, who died while executing his duties at the World Trade Center on 9/11. The truck has been lovingly restored by the volunteer fire department of Milford Township as a memorial to the firefighters who gave their lives that day.
Salutes have to go out to the New Jersey State Police, the Pennsylvania State Police and the Courtyard Marriott, who did a great job accommodating over 2500 people by opening rooms for extra facilities, allowing us all to take over their lots and driveways and keeping the beer flowing. The State Police managed to keep entrances to I-78 blocked as well as maintain speed control in addition to escorting; however, there was one report of a rider being hit into a median by a car (when will cagers pay attention?). He was taken to a local hospital.
I have seen a couple of 9/11 memorials containing remnants of the World Trace Center, but this was different. Seeing that beam, rusted and untouched by any artist’s vision, bound down to a flatbed, seemed to generate more emotion than those within nice fountains or as part of sculpture. I realized people died under or near this--people who just wanted to get through their day and go home to their families.
Perhaps one of the reasons bikers are so quick to respond when called out for a good cause such as this is their unwavering understanding of what their freedoms truly cost and how fortunate they are. One rider in this particular run had a unique bike that truly brought these ideals to light. His Harley was rigged onto a cart in which he, wheelchair bound, could still ride, not as a passenger, but as a biker. He wouldn’t allow his limitations to interfere with his freedom and, by riding with us that day he reminded all of us of why we answer the call.
By Louise Reeves