Motorcycle caravan commemorates losses on 9/11 and later wars

By MICHAEL DRESSER | The Baltimore Sun (Tribune News Service) | Published: September 9, 2018

The reason Yvonne Green traveled from Rosedale, Md., to northern Harford County for a motorcycle ride on a dreary, drippy morning was as clear as the shirt on her back.

It carried the picture of Army Spec. Toccara Green, her 23-year-old daughter, who in 2005 became the first Maryland woman to die in the Iraq war.

"They say a soldier dies twice -- once when they're actually killed and twice is when you no longer speak their name," the 59-year-old Gold Star mother said.

The occasion was Maryland's seventh annual Patriot Day Ride, which took dozens of motorcyclists and passengers from the Darlington Volunteer Fire Department to the Putty Hill Shopping Center in Parkville. The event is the creation of Chuck Ritz of Essex, whose charitable Hope and Peace Foundation sponsors the ride.

Ritz, 59, said that after 9/11, he attended anniversary commemorations in New York and Pennsylvania for a decade before deciding Maryland should have its own memorial caravan.

"Our motto is 'keeping the promise' -- so we never forget," he said. "9/11 changed most of our own lives and changed the world that we live in."

The prospects for the event looked bleak at 8 a.m. as riders and others started gathering at the fire hall. Already flood-plagued Harford County was hit by a drenching rain that made the roads treacherous -- especially on two wheels.

Ritz said that last year the event drew 192 bikes.

"If we get 10 or 20, we may be lucky," he said early in the morning.

Over the years, the event has taken on its own patriotic rituals. There are six moments of silence -- each marking a pivotal moment in the nation's most deadly day in the age of terrorism.

Ritz led the first at 8:46 a.m., with only a few on hand, to mark the time American Airlines Flight 11 smashed into the North Tower of New York's World Trade Center. But the attendance grew for each subsequent moment of remembrance: at 9:03, when United Flight 175 hit the South Tower; at 9:37, when United 77 plowed into the Pentagon; at 9:59 when the South Tower collapsed, and at 10:03 when United Flight 93 crashed into a farm field in Somerset County, Pa.

By 10:28, well more than 100 were in the fire hall to fall silent to mark the fall of the North Tower.

Shortly after 10, Ritz led off a ceremony calling out the name of the 69 Marylanders killed on 9/11, starting with Sheila Hein of University Park, killed while working at the Pentagon. Others took turns reading out other names. After each name was called, either Jim Scarborough of Conowingo or Joe Glackin of Delta, Pa., pulled the cord to ring a church bell cast in Baltimore 100 years ago.

Yvonne Green, who attended with her husband, Garry, and fellow Gold Star mother Rosemarie Ceo of Baltimore, were among those reading out names. Ceo, 67, was there to honor the memory of the son whose picture she wore on her shirt, Army Cpl. Bernard Lawrence Ceo, also killed in Iraq in 2005 at 23.

"This is something that I know my son would like -- plus it's in his memory and all the other families and fallen heroes," she said.

Angie and Darren Lundeen of Elkton, 51 and 54 respectively, said it was their third year of taking part in the event. Angie Lundeen said the fallen "deserve the respect and remembrance."

"We're strong Americans. We believe in our flag and our country," she said. "We both have family members that have been in the military. It's just the right thing to do."

Ray Pescuzzi of Forestdale, a 63-year-old Air Force veteran, said it was his first time at Ritz's event, though he has taken part in other 9/11 rides.

"It's been 17 years," he said. "I think people are forgetting what they said they'd never forget."

Shortly before 11 a.m., under cloudy skies but with the rain stopped, a contingent of mounted police officers from multiple Maryland departments led the riders out of the Fire Department parking lot and onto southbound U.S.1.

About 45 minutes later they arrived in Parkville along what Ritz calls the Path of Honor -- Putty Hill Road lined with 2,977 U.S. flags representing the number of victims in all four 9/11 attacks. They pulled into the Putty Hill Shopping Center, and many of the bikes parked beside a green slope called the Field of Honor marked with 151 flags representing Marylanders killed in military service.

Ritz said that despite the bleak weather, 55-60 bikes took part.

Yvonne Green, who arrived as a passenger on a bike with a man she knew as "Mister Rick," pronounced the ride excellent and said she could cross one off her bucket list.
"I think I want a bike now," she said.

Green thought Toccara would have approved.

"She would like to be here with me," she said.

And so, in a way, she was.


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