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The Aegis
Harford County

Anniversary of 9/11 commemorated on Harford overpass

Brian Sams, of Darlington, made his third annual visit Thursday to the Old Mountain Road overpass over I-95 to hold a flag covered with the names of the nearly 3,000 victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, but it was the first time for his daughter.

"We're here to pay our respects to all of our fellow citizens who were lost in the terrorist attacks of 2001," Sams said as he and his daughter stood with their fellow flag wavers who watched the traffic speed along the interstate.

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Drivers took a moment to honk at the people standing on the overpass or on fire trucks parked on the narrow two-lane span, and waving American flags. Drivers of emergency vehicles also hit their sirens.

Sams held his Flag of Honor, and his 3-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Brianna, waved to drivers and clutched a small American flag.

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"I wanted her to be a part of the tribute," he said.

At least 50 people took part in the annual remembrance of 9/11, which is organized by co-creators Dels. Pat McDonough and Rick Impallaria; they represent Harford and Baltimore counties in Annapolis.

Ceremonies took place throughout Harford County and the country Thursday in honor of the 13th anniversary of 9/11.

The flag-waving event has been held each year on the Joppa overpass since 2003.

McDonough noted the observance of the 9/11 anniversary this year takes on even greater importance as the U.S. military continues its fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq.

President Barack Obama announced Wednesday the U.S. also plans to attack the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL, in Syria.

Two American journalists have been murdered by ISIS militants in recent weeks.

"You always have to be aware and remember, and now this year I think it's more important to remember," McDonough said.

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Accompanying McDonough and Impallaria was their House of Delegates colleague Del. Susan McComas and Harford Sheriff Jesse Bane.

The crowd also included members of the Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company, which typically provides a ladder truck from which a large U.S. flag is hung, but the company's ladder truck needed repairs.

Company member Kevin Gibney, who is also a lieutenant with the Baltimore County Fire Department, came to the rescue with a ladder truck his family owns, purchased from the Oaklyn Fire Department in New Jersey.

"It was pretty cool," Gibney, who lives in Fawn Grove, Pa., said of his first time at the flag-waving event.

He described it as "very patriotic, a good time, a lot of good people here."

His comrade in Baltimore County and Joppa-Magnolia, Leroy Edmunds, operated the rear of the ladder truck.

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Edmunds has attended previous flag-waving events and usually brings an antique fire truck bearing the number 343, which is also the number of New York City firefighters killed in the collapse of the World Trade Center.

Thursday, he wore a shirt bearing the names of his friends in the FDNY who lost their lives on 9/11.

He and his fellow Baltimore County firefighters became friends with New York firefighters as a result of a friendly bet on the 2001 Super Bowl between the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Giants.

He traveled to New York to collect T-shirts from the New York firefighters, the Baltimore County crews' prize for the Ravens' win that year.

"I just don't want anybody to forget what happened on that tragic day," Edmunds said of 9/11.

Ron Walker, of the Bush River-Perryman area, wore a yellow T-shirt with the phrase "Don't Tread on Me."

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He said he has attended every year, even one year in the pouring rain.

"There were about a dozen of us still out here in rain gear," he recalled.

Walker said he takes part in the event each year "just because 9/11 has become such as horrific day; I remember exactly where I was when I heard it had happened."

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He said he was in a convenience store when he heard about the attacks, and he jumped into his vehicle and turned on the radio.

He noted 9/11 is an event that stands out in the minds of Americans, similar to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 that drew the U.S. into World War II or the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

"It's one of those few days where you remember where you were and what you were doing when you first heard about it," Walker said. "It's still hard to believe, when you think about it."

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Debbie Ventre, of Middle River, is another regular attendee. She wears a bracelet bearing the names of three people who died in the attacks, and whose names are part of the 9/11 memorial on the site of the World Trade Center, commonly known as Ground Zero.

She travels to New York on a regular basis, and she also wore a cross that she bought in the city that is modeled on crosses made of the steel beams of the buildings.

Ventre also holds on to the memory of a bus trip through Lower Manhattan and a stop at the World Trade Center before 9/11.

"I feel like that was a gift that I have, such a beautiful memory of what a beautiful place it was," she said. "It was just beautiful and peaceful; it was just very serene."


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