Annual flag-waving event recalls 'tragedy that should never have happened'

Every year since 2001, Del. Pat McDonough has brought out dozens of residents from Harford County and around the region to remind everyone of the 9/11 terror attacks by waving American flags on Route 152 over the I-95 bridge.

This year, the 10th anniversary of the attacks, was no different. With flags of all sizes, flashing lights, mementos and tears, more than 120 people took over the bridge as motorists speeding down the central interstate honked in support.

"This is close to our biggest [year]," McDonough said of the event. "I think this may be in the top two."

He noted every year brings some unexpected incident from passers-by. Once, a man got off the highway with tears in his eyes, telling the flag-wavers his brother was the pilot of the plane that flew into the Pentagon.

This year, he said, a man jumped out of his car and threw on a New York Police Department jacket, getting a big cheer from the crowd on the bridge.

Personnel from Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company hoisted a large flag from the top of a fire truck ladder. Later during the event, residents came together to sing "God Bless America."

Those who were pressed to the chain-link bridge fence, with flags large and small, mostly did not know anyone who was killed in the attacks but wanted to support those who did.

Romaine Johnson, of Baltimore, had brought a special white "Flag of Heroes" she had bought at Walmart, which listed the names of all the emergency personnel who had died that day.

"I may not be actually hurt by the attack but some people were," Johnson said, adding that people lost their children and children lost parents.

With tears in her eyes, she said she remembered "the courageous people who ran in [to the World Trade Center or Pentagon] and knew that they might never come out."

"That takes a lot of courage," she said. "I don't know them, but I am proud to know [of] them because I feel really bad for the families."

Also, "I enjoy being with Americans who are here, waving a flag," she said. "This was a tragedy that should never have happened."

Jean Hruz, of Joppatowne, said she is originally from New York and her father was a firefighter in New York City a long time ago, which brought the attacks closer to home for her.

"I just think it's very important that we remember what happened to these civilians who were attacked and killed unmercifully," she said. "It's hard to believe that 10 years has gone by, and you think of all the children who have no parents… It's so ironic that we got [Osama] bin Laden in the 10th year."

Denise Jackson, of Dundalk, was one of about 40 people from Dundalk's Calvary Baptist Church who came. Some were still in Sunday dresses and formal outfits; Jackson, meanwhile, wore a Ravens jersey.

She thought recognition of 9/11 has grown over the years, and more it's being commemorated more openly.

"It just seems like we are supporting the troops a lot more," she said. "More people are into it… I think it's a big thing on the TV and everything."

The L'Altrelli family, from Kingsville, came out together to show their patriotism.

Ray L'Altrelli said he thinks people may have gotten less passionate about remembering 9/11 because the country has been relatively safe for the past decade.

"It flew by, but because we were never attacked, a lot of people think it was like business as usual. I think a lot of people probably don't appreciate the effort the government made trying to keep us from being attacked," he said. "I think a lot of people are complacent, too."

Marianne L'Altrelli said she wanted her kids to experience the flag-waving event.

"We are really proud to be Americans," she said.

Robbie L'Altrelli, 16, said he thinks the event unified the country.

"9/11 brought everyone together, made America a whole, and now we are closer together and everyone can enjoy a great country," he said.

'Spur-of-the-moment' ceremony in Aberdeen

A last-minute 9/11 event in Aberdeen brought out dozens more people than expected, Mayor Mike Bennett said Sunday.

On Friday, city officials decided to hold a brief ceremony at 8:40 a.m. Sunday morning, with a flag to be raised at exactly 8:46 a.m., the time the first plane hit the World Trade Center.

"It was kind of spur of the moment," he said. "We had 85 people show up. It was phenomenal."

Bennett said it dawned on city administration Friday that they should do something, and quickly sent out a Connect-Cty message to Aberdeen residents.

He only expected about 20 or 30 people to come, and said he was pleasantly surprised by the attendance.

"It was a really nice time of remembrance and everybody seemed to really enjoy it," Bennett said. "I think we are going to try to do one of these every year. It seemed to hit a core with a lot of people."

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