For months, my wife and I have been looking forward to the dedication of the Indianapolis 9/11 Memorial; not because of excitement, but for the final placement of the World Trade Center beams that we’ve been escorting to a number of events in Indiana and Kentucky. We understood the need to “publicize” the beams arrival to the Hoosier State, but it had come time to erect the symbols of what makes America the great country that it is, and this day was the beginning of a memorial so that all could remember the sacrifices that the people of this nation have given.
A number of Indianapolis HOG chapter #1 members met at the Harley-Davidson dealership on 96th in the wee hours of the morning. Riders arrived in the dark beginning at 6:30AM to gather in the deserted parking lot, some riding in the rain that would chase us throughout the day. Approximately 50 people had arrived by the set departure time of 7:15, with more riders pulling in as the group left for Anderson, the staging place for many more bikes to ride on the journey to the memorial dedication.
The ride to the Hoosier Park Racing & Casino was somewhat uneventful, as traffic was light, and the rain very light at times. The Casino gladly allowed the usage of their enormous parking lot for motorcyclists all over the Midwest to congregate. In addition, Hoosier Park had a number of deals going on for those that wished to contribute…a $5 all you could eat breakfast buffet, as well as with a $10 donation to the memorial, each rider would receive a $15 slot machine credit.
A specially made flag, showing all those who gave their life on 9/11
The parking lot slowly filled up from our arrival at 7:45 until the departure time of noon. No exact count was made, but simple quick math showed approximate 800-1,000 bikes had taken part in this ride from this one location. The hours before departure passed by rather quickly, as many friends had arrived, allowing for conversation and picture taking to dominate over the boredom that may have otherwise happened. Most riders enjoyed the breakfast, which was filling and hot. As expected, most of those that donated lost their free slot allowance back to the casino, but one of our close friends found luck on her side and won nearly $200. This added some excitement to the morning, and it was nice to see somebody actually leave with more than they had arrived with.
Pictures taken with 2 hours to go before leaving
We all went back out to the parking lot, and eventually the casino called all riders around for a blessing of the bikes, detailed information about the ride, and the purpose of what our day was for. The call was made for all riders to proceed to their bike, where we would be escorted to Indianapolis by dozens of police motorcyclists, a military Huey helicopter, and firefighters. Hearing the starting of hundreds of motorcycles at once is an amazing sound, one that presents itself as a orchestra of harmony, power, and unity.
The ride to Indianapolis was absolutely surreal.
Residents of Anderson were standing along the street sides by the hundreds, in the intersections where police were blocking traffic, and parked along the road in parking lots. These residents were not participating in the ride itself, but had given up a few hours of their lives to cheer and applaud the riders as we rode out of the town. Many had US flags, and proudly waved them high in the air. Many of these parents had their children with them, some who had not even born yet when the tragic events of September 11, 2001 transpired. My thoughts were to the explanations that would be given to them as they asked questions as to why the ride was happening. Cars stopped all along the road, in both directions, and waves and honks greeted all of in a chorus of support as we passed by.
Along the route, firefighters turned out with their perfectly polished fire trucks. Many had their ladders extended as high as they would reach into the sky, with very large flags hanging and swinging in the open air over the riders as they past. Many of the police officers and fire fighters along the route stood still at attention, saluting the riders and what we represented this day. It was extremely moving to see these public figures, who every day are willing to lay down their lives for a stranger, standing in formation and giving us, the riders, their completely dedicated attention and respect. Every rider this day will tell you that was us, who should be the ones saluting them as they passed. I think it would be safe to say that every one of us riders was truly moved by the spectacles we saw on our journey to Indianapolis.
The bikes continued on to I-69 southbound, and each overpass that we passed under had fire trucks, fire fighters, and citizens present…either standing at attention and saluting, or happily waving to the bikes passing underneath them. My wife, who rides on the back of my Ultra Classic, is fast becoming a accomplished photographer, and capture many images…which is shown at her own blog. The police had told us previously that with the volume of normal traffic on I-69, that they would be unable to close the interstate down…and that we should be aware of traffic around us. Within ten minutes of entering the interstate system, traffic had disappeared. Cars and semis were pulling off onto the shoulders, in both directions. These travelers most likely had little clue as to our exact destination, but with the amount of police escorts, must have ascertained the purpose of our ride. Horns and waving continued from these interrupted travelers, who seemed more than willing to be delayed for a little bit of time in memory of those that gave their lives previously. One person who sat in his car on a on-ramp giving the middle finger to each biker that was seen by many riders caused my wife and I, as well as other riders, to get angry…but we quickly forgot this transgression and continued our ride. While we may forgive, there is a special place awaiting people like this in the afterlife. Hopefully one day, he asks for and receives forgiveness for his past behavior.
During our wait at the casino parking lot, the skies had cleared and warm sunshine required the removal of jackets worn that morning. The ride to Indianapolis was mostly free of precipitation, as the clouds above us played merciless on us regarding whether or not it would place us in a deluge of rain. At one point, the rain started…but ended within a minute or so. Talking over my shoulder back to my wife, I told her these were “tears from heaven”, from those that were lost. This statement seemed very true, as if the souls that were lost a decade ago wished to remind us that they would always be with us. The initial escort ride into Indiana back in April was one of torrential downpours, only to end with the arrival of the beams in Indianapolis and the sunshine overtaking the rain in the end.
Police officers blocked intersections throughout downtown Indianapolis, and even started shutting down the on-ramps on I-70 to allow the parade of bikes to safely pass. A large parking lot was reserved for this group of riders, and we slowly pulled in and parked the bikes. Our arrival was about 1PM, and the dedication ceremony was to scheduled to start at 4PM. Getting off the bikes, we proceeded to the parking garage located on the other side of the street, and proceeded to the top floor. This gave unobstructed views of our parking location, and the memorial on the the other side of the garage. The WTC beams stood proudly, with only a sheet draping over the eagle mounted on top of one of them that would be unveiled during the ceremony.
We decided to return to the street, when the skies opened up in a very intense downpour for 15-20 minutes. A lone police officer, obviously on the low end of the seniority scale, stood in at a closed intersection, preventing traffic from driving through the memorial site. We yelled to her, offering her an umbrella from a friend’s motorcycle, that had been previously retrieved. She declined, and continually faithfully redirecting traffic. The rain turned to a drizzle, and we evacuated the cover of the parking garage to find a hot cup of coffee and a place to sit for a couple of hours before the ceremony was to begin. A downtown Starbucks had just closed, so we found a nearby Subway and took refuge inside for awhile. A number of the police escort officers were already inside, and we talked to them and other riders to pass the time.
As the time for the dedication drew close, we left our sanctuary to enter the rain outside. We quickly decided to walk briskly back to our bikes, where would could retrieve our rain gear. Under the shelter of the previously accessed parking garage, most of us donned our rain gear, and walked to the area of the ceremony, which was to scheduled to start thirty minutes later. As we walked, the rains disappeared again…only this time, for the rest of the day finally.
The area around the memorial was packed with people…both motorcyclists, as well as the general population. Many people were in uniform…county and state first responder workers and officials, firefighters, police officers, and military personnel. It had seemed that there were many hundreds gathered around the memorial, and for thousands of feet around it. The memorial had been established next to the canal in downtown Indianapolis on West Ohio street…and people gathered on the far side of the canal so that they could witness the unveiling.
The ceremony, scheduled to start at 4PM, was delayed to an inoperable sound system that needed to be fixed, as well as the need for officials and dignitaries to arrive. Military generals and liaisons, state and city officials, and even the district’s congressman arrived and mingled in the crowd. Eventually, the ceremony commenced, to the applause and cheers of the crowd. The dedication took approximately 90 minutes, which included a number of speakers, and songs of sacrifice and freedom from the local children’s choir as well as some guest singers from the east coast. One of the largest rounds of applause from the crowd came with Greg Hess, the person whose idea it was to create a memorial in Indianapolis, and who went to New York to retrieve the sacred symbols of that fateful day, go up to speak. Greg talked about the journey which had enveloped his life, and even caused his family to sacrifice time with this father/husband as he finalized the goal of giving all Hoosiers a place to reflect, and remember. During the last song, a Huey made a pass over the fist-pumping and waving cheers below. Soldiers could be seen in the open doors of the helicopter, saluting the crowd below. Another emotional moment that I’m sure that caused every person in attendance to get a lump in their throats.
Eventually, the sheet covering the top of one of the beams was removed. Mounted on the beam, was a guilded eagle…purposefully placed to face New York City. The crowd went wild with applause and cheers, and the dedication came to an end. Immediately, the crowd surged toward the memorial, which consists of more than just the two beams and the eagle. Granite memorial were also placed that reflected the times and events of those events of 2001 that we should never forget.
My wife and I had proudly escorted the beams through the spring and summer of this year to a number of destinations, so that the public would be aware of what was to occur on this day. We both stood, silently and with emotional respect, staring at the memorial. When the crowds subsided enough, my wife went closer to touch one again the beams, and to photograph them along with the public that gazed upon it’s glory. I will get up better pictures of the memorial shortly, as I plan to return to the memorial in the next week or so and take additional pictures of each component, so that I may share it with those that read this blog.
My we never forget the sacrifices that our citizens, first responders, and military personnel have made in the past decade in the fight against those that wish us harm. Thousands of people have lost their lives in the fight, and my wife and I will never forget the freedoms that we have. May these souls forever rest in peace, and know that we will always joyfully receive their tears from heaven.