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Harford observes 15th anniversary of 9/11 attacks with annual flag waving

Folks gathered at I-95 overpass at Rt.152 Sunday for the anniversary of 9/11/01. (Matt Button/BSMG)

Edgewood resident Karen Nicholson was pregnant with her daughter, Sarah, 15 years ago when terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, forcing the nation into a war against terror that continues today.

A decade and a half later, Nicholson's now 14-year-old daughter stood beside her on the Old Mountain Road overpass in Joppa, waving American flags at motorists heading north on I-95. Other people were on the opposite side, waving at southbound traffic. Drivers heading in both directions honked their horns at the flag wavers.

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About 250 people were on the overpass late Sunday afternoon for Harford County's 14th annual flag waving to commemorate the 9/11 attacks.

"I make sure my kids realize the significance of this day," Nicholson said.

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She has six children, four who have grown up in a post-9/11 world. Her youngest children – Sarah, 14, Joshua, 12, Rachel, 8 and Nathaniel, 6 – joined her and her husband, Bobby, for Sunday's event.

A Fallston church invited first responders to its Sunday worship services. In between the services, the congregation gathered at its new flagpole, an Eagle Scout project by Alex Louderback, to raise the flag at 9:59 a.m., when the second World Trade Center tower fell. Among those gathered was Amanda Ray, a local teacher whose aunt died in the WTC attack and collapse.

Nicholson said she home-schools her children, and she teaches them about 9/11, when nearly 3,000 Americans were killed as four high jacked planes were crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Northern Virginia and a field in western Pennsylvania.

Passengers took over the fourth plane, United Flight 93, and it crashed before reaching its suspected target, either the U.S. Capitol or the White House.

"I think it's important for them to realize what happened and how they can represent their country and not forget – that's the most important thing," Nicholson said.

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Nicholson was working as a travel agent with Travel Destinations in Owings Mills and was one to two months pregnant with Sarah.

The federal government shut down all U.S. air travel following the attacks, and Nicholson and her co workers had to find alternate forms of transportation for stranded travelers throughout the country.

"We had to keep it together to help the travelers get home to their loved ones," she said.

Her husband, Bobby, was with their son, Joshua, on the opposite side of the overpass waving at traffic.

"I'm out here to show my flag in support of my country and remember a time when we weren't divided, but everyone was united as a country," Bobby Nicholson said.

Bobby Nicholson is an Army veteran who served during the 1991 Gulf War.

He said that war, during which the U.S. and its allies liberated Kuwait from the Iraqi forces occupying that country, was "nothing like what those boys saw the second time around."

The U.S military has spent nearly 15 years fighting jihadists, mostly in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is an ongoing air campaign against Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria.

Americans have also had to deal with 15 years of heightened security at airports, including checkpoints where people have to take off their shoes and belts, plus travelers can only carry liquids in tiny bottles.

"They don't know any different, they just go about their lives," Colleen Murphy, of Bel Air, said of young people born after 9/11. "As a parent who remembers before then it's very sad."

Murphy is a co-leader of Girl Scout Troop 333, of Forest Hill. She leads the troop with Teresa Saldana, of Forest Hill. They, along with four of nine Scouts in the troop, participated in the flag waving – two of the four Scouts were their daughters, including Murphy's 16-year-old daughter, Rosalie Gude, who attends Fallston High School, and Saldana's 15-year-old daughter, Maddie, who attends Notre Dame Preparatory School in Towson.

"My [Scouts] came down to wave flags, show patriotic support and deliver Girl Scout cookies to our first responders," Saldana said.

Many members of the Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company were present Sunday. Several of their vehicles were on an overpass further north with lights flashing and a large American flag hanging from a ladder truck. A yellow fire truck from the North Point-Edgemere Volunteer Fire Department in Baltimore County was parked on the Old Mountain Road overpass, along with a rented military truck.

Northbound traffic came to a standstill for part of the event as members of Joppa-Magnolia and the Abingdon Fire Company handled a multi-vehicle accident close to the Route 24 interchange.

Drivers heading in both directions still honked their horns at the flag wavers.

"I love the fact that I'm able to wave a flag and connect with these individuals on 95," Saldana said. "I'm brought to tears every time I come here."

Members of Troop 333 have been part of the flag waving for seven years.

"This is proof positive that there are still a lot of good people in this world, and we have to continue to encourage acts of kindness," Saldana said.

Republican Del. Pat McDonough, and his colleague in Annapolis, Republican Del. Rick Impallaria, work with the Joppa-Magnolia Fire Company to put on the flag waving, an annual event since 2002.

Both men represent eastern Baltimore County and western Harford County.

McDonough, who is also running against incumbent Democratic Rep. C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger for the District 2 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, stressed the event is non-partisan and anyone is welcome – one participant had posted a campaign sign for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on the overpass fence.

"I wanted to do something that was simple, that people could participate in very easily, that would make them feel good and at the same time would be witnessed, literally. by thousands of people," McDonough said of the travelers on I-95, which runs the length of the East Coast.

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