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By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 17, 2011 – Tenth-anniversary commemorations of the 9/11 terror attacks will begin kicking off tomorrow, as almost 2,500 motorcyclists launch the 11th America’s 9/11 Ride that begins in Shanksville, Pa., and continues over the next three days to the Pentagon and World Trade Center crash sites.
The annual memorial ride, sponsored by America’s 911 Foundation Inc., honors more than 3,000 victims of the 9/11 attacks, including 184 killed when American Airlines Flight 77 exploded into the Pentagon, as well as the first responders who rushed to all three locations.
Sept. 11 survivors, families who lost loved ones in the attacks and first responders are among those registered for this year’s memorial ride, to kick off tomorrow evening in Pennsylvania’s Somerset County. There, the first phase of a new Flight 93 National Memorial honoring 40 people killed aboard the flight will be dedicated Sept. 10.
Following an evening memorial concert by rock ‘n’ roll “screamer” Donnie Iris Aug. 18, the motorcycle procession will depart early the next day for the Pentagon Memorial. There, riders will pay tribute to victims of the Pentagon attack, including the 58 passengers, four flight attendants and two pilots aboard the hijacked Boeing 757 and 125 people inside the Pentagon.
Country music star Aaron Tippin, best known in military circles for his “You’ve Got to Stand for Something” single that became a popular anthem for troops fighting in the Gulf War and his No. 1 post-9/11 hit, “Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagles Fly,” will present a free concert that evening in nearby Arlington, Va.
The last leg of the ride will begin at the Pentagon early Aug. 20 as the motorcyclists travel to ground zero in New York. The following day, they will participate in a World Trade Center ceremony honoring 2,753 victims of the attacks there, which includes deaths from respiratory disease linked to the towers’ collapse.
Ted Sjurseth, who with his wife, Lisa, founded America’s 911 Foundation in October 2001, sponsored the first memorial ride the following month with 250 participants. The ride has increased in size over the past decade, and Sjurseth said he’s excited that the 10-anniversary ride will be the largest yet.
“We’re focused on making this year’s ride better than ever and taking what we’ve been working on over the past 10 years to the next level,” he said. “Through this year’s program, along with the ride, we will continue our primary mission to remember and honor those who lost their lives on 9/11.”
The ride also raises money for programs that support families of first responders, foundation officials said. Over the past six years, the foundation has awarded more than $180,000 in college scholarships to more than 75 children of emergency responders, and donated more than $500,000 in new equipment and contributions to first-responder departments.
“We're here to honor the heroes we have around us every day,” Sjurseth said.
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