As 911 anniversary nears, bikers ride to remember

ARLINGTON, Va. – This September marks 12 years since the terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. The America’s 911 Foundation is paying tribute to the first responders by taking its message on the road.

Just after sunrise, a roar of engines shook the ground. One thousand motorcycles lined up in neat rows in the Pentagon’s north parking lot. Attached to nearly every bike was an American flag.

Richard Betz’s handlebars were decorated with the annual ride bracelets from years past. “I believe very much in the firefighters and the police and the military in this country. I’m here to support them,” he says. “I don’t think we can do enough for them.”

Motorcyclists from all over the country traveled from the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania to the Pentagon, before leaving toward Ground Zero – the former site of the World Trade Center towers.

The 2013 ride is dedicated to the 417 fallen heroes who lost their lives that day in hopes their sacrifice is never forgotten.

Many riders lost family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors in the attacks.

Michael Nardo’s high school friend was a firefighter who was killed in the towers.

“I was right across the river watching the whole thing happen in real time. I remember it like it was yesterday,” Nardo says. “It’s a small part we can do to keep the memory alive of everybody who died that day and not let it get lost to the pages of history.”

Among the crowd was a September 11th survivor.

“I was on the 35th floor, tower 2,” says Richard Pinnavaia, a safety engineer and board member of America’s 911 Foundation.

Pinnavaia got out the building 30 minutes before the tower collapsed.

“People really don’t understand what first responders do and how they put their lives in jeopardy going into places that people are fleeing from,” he said.

“We don’t want people to forget and that’s the problem. People are starting to forget,” he says. “It’s like we always say – never forget and never again.”

Maryland Transportation Authority Police Officer Cunningham says it’s an honor to be a part of the police escort. “I actually lost friends in 9/11, so we think of our lost loved ones in remembrance doing this ride.”

America’s 911 Foundation has donated more than $250,000 to first responders and their families.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter.