Waving the flag on 11th of each month

Navy veteran Harry Korrell began waving a U.S. flag from the Frederick Road bridge that spans the Baltimore Beltway shortly after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Since then, he and other volunteers have been waving flags at the same site on the 11th day of every month. His appearance at the site this Sunday, his 125th, may also be his last. (Staff photo by Brian Krista / September 6, 2011)

This Sunday's 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks will mark the 125th time a group of Catonsville residents led by Harry Korrell have performed their monthly ritual of flying an American flag on the Frederick Road bridge over Interstate 695.

It may also mark the last time the group will wave the flag at the side of the busy Catonsville road.

"I think we decided that this will be it," Korrell said of the group's 10 years of appearances at the bridge on the 11th of each month.

In the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, Korrell, a Navy veteran, said he tried to make it a daily reminder.

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"(We wanted) to remind people that we're a nation at war," he said.

But he and his group soon realized that level of effort was unsustainable.

They agreed, Korrell said, to wave the flag on the 11th of each month.

They start at 8:45 a.m., about the time the World Trade Center's North Tower was struck by the pirated American Airlines flight 11.

The group, which normally has several people in addition to Korrell, stays for two hours.

They leave 30 minutes after the time the South Tower collapsed, about when the North Tower fell.

Over the years, their actions have evolved. Instead of holding a 12-foot metal pole to display the 3-by-5-foot flag in cold weather, for example, Korrell uses bungee cords to secure the flag to a fence.

But the group has not missed an 11th of the month, enduring the cold of winter, the heat and humidity of Baltimore's summers, extreme temperatures and torrential downpours.

Korrell, 74, recalled one time when he and his group stood in a cold rain that soaked through their jackets.

"Four or five of us went up to some coffee shop on Frederick Road, pouring water out of our boots and having coffee and water running every where," said Korrell, a life-long Catonsville resident. "People looked at us like, 'Are you some kind of nuts?' Yeah."

Asked if he would miss his monthly ritual whenever it ends, Korrell joked about enjoying being home on days like February 11, 2003.

He called that day "colder than the jaws of hell."

Eugene and Gertrude Shaver, 85 and 84, respectively, said they have missed only a handful of the 124 flag wavings leading up to Sunday's event.

"We didn't want to let anything stop us from doing it," said Eugene, an Army veteran who was in the south Pacific and the Philippines during World War II. "So we just bundled up."

Participants, not politics, welcome

It isn't uncommon, Shaver said, for motorists on Frederick Road or on the Beltway below to honk in appreciation as they drive by.