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Bikers commemorate 9/11 anniversary

MORE: Read more Stafford County news

By DAWNTHEA PRICE and BRIDGET BALCH

Pat Brown of Stafford County waves a flag as motorcyclists leave the Brafferton Shopping Center in Stafford for the 2 Million Bikers to DC ride. / Photo by Peter Cihelka

About 350 bikers and their supporters gathered at Mainstreet Grill and Bar Wednesday morning in North Stafford, which was a local rally point for the Two Million Bikers to D.C. in remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The riders are meeting up with the organizers and other motorcyclists in Springfield before continuing on to Washington.

Though the group applied for a National Park Service permit to ride through the district unimpeded, it was denied, so organizers said what would have been a one or two-hour ride will likely turn into an all-day event.

The ride was originally organized after the announcement of the Million Muslim March—later renamed The Million American March Against Fear—which will congregate near on the National Mall.

“My husband is a veteran and we’ve always been a patriotic family,” said Mainstreet owner Crissy Sharon. “Our place is biker-friendly, too.”

Deputies from the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office and a trooper from the Virginia State Police escorted the bikers on northbound Intersate 95 via exit 143, which VDOT closed for 15 minutes to facilitate their journey.

Also in Fredericksburg Wednesday morning, a group of students, faculty, staff and local residents gathered in Jefferson Square at the University of Mary Washington commemorate the 12th anniversary of the attacks.

Participants stood with their hands over their hearts as two members of the UMW Reserve Officers’ Training Corps raised the American flag to half mast.

Four more ROTC students stood at attention as a bugler played the solemn notes of Taps.

“On September 11, 2001, our nation experienced a great tragedy,” David Helgran, president of the UMW Association of Student Veterans, said to the crowd. He expressed the significance of taking a moment in the midst of our busy lives to remember that day.

Doug Searcy, vice president of student affairs, thanked everyone for coming out to help the university commemorate the tragedy and asked the group to remember to recognize a moment of silence at 9 a.m.

This is the first year that the UMW ROTC, which is a satellite of the George Mason University ROTC, has been included in UMW’s remembrance of Sept. 11.

Jeremy Hillberry, vice president of the student veterans group, said that the ROTC reached out to UMW faculty to become involved in the observance of the anniversary.

“Everybody wanted to respect 9/11,” said Hillberry, a a 10-year Army veteran and a UMW junior pursing a bachelor of liberal studies in leadership and management.

Stafford County officials marked the commemoration outside of the George L. Gordon, Jr., Government Center Wednesday morning with members of the Stafford Fire and Rescue Department conducting a bell-ringing ceremony.

Bells are traditionally used to alert firefighters of fires and to mark their safe return to the firehouse after an operation. Five bells signify a completed task.

The “last alarm” of five bells is used at many funerals for fire personnel. Four sets of five bells memorialized the victims of 9/11 on Wednesday.

Bridget Balch: 540/374-5417

bbalch@freelancestar.com

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