Flight 93 victims memorialized during Thunder on the Mountain 7th Patriot Biker Ride
Several years ago, when Justine Conrad, 46, of Lowhill Township in Washington County visited the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel with a group of friends, a man from New York asked them for help with placing American flags on the property.
As Conrad and her friends decorated the area, the Rev. Alphonse T. Mascherino, founder of the chapel, came outside and struck up a conversation with the group.
The chance meeting inspired a tradition.
On Sunday, the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel held the Thunder on the Mountain 7th Patriot Biker Ride, an outdoor Christian memorial service dedicated to memorializing the 9/11 victims, with an emphasis on the memory of those who died on Flight 93.
“I think people should keep remembering every year,” said Conrad, who helps to plan the annual event.
The chapel, founded by Mascherino in 2002, is along Stutzmantown Road in Friedens, with a monument dedicated to the crew of Flight 93 and an iron “UA93” sculpture on its grounds. Inside of the chapel are various mementos related to Flight 93, including a sanctuary room with pictures of each victim.
Since Mascherino's passing in February, the Most Rev. Ramzi R. Musallam, archbishop of the Catholic Church of the East, has assumed the duties of chapel director. At Sunday's event, Musallam spoke about how he made a promise to Mascherino to continue his vision of memorializing the victims of the terrorist attacks.
“I am so proud to be an American,” said Musallam, as he began a passionate speech.
He spoke of the importance of remembering what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, so that younger generations can remember, too.
“We have to begin to teach,” he said. “The time is now.
“Those men and women — they fought so hard for you and for me,” he said.
Musallam talked about how “faithful Americans” can continue the work of Flight 93's heroes.
“Our country needs God now,” he said. “It's time for America ... I don't care what religion you are ... it's time we stand as a nation.”
The crowd responded to Musallam with “amens” and “hallelujahs.” They sang several patriotic tunes and church hymns, including “God Bless the USA,” “How Great Thou Art” and “God Bless America.”
Musallam thanked those who volunteered to organize the event, including Conrad and Jim and Dona Salzman.
After Musallam's remarks, motorcyclists from the region participated in a flag ceremony, placing an American flag in the ground for each victim of the crash, as well as all 50 state flags, and flags to memorialize Mascherino and the four people killed during the Benghazi attack in Libya in 2012.
One attendee announced the names of the victims, with the chapel's bell echoing after each one. Participants strode across the road and planted the flags in front of the mass of motorcycles parked nearby. The preamble of each state's constitution was read aloud as the state flags were planted around the chapel's monument. Soon the chapel grounds were surrounded by the patriotic symbols.
Members of the Christian Motorcyclists Association, a nondenominational Christian organization, took part in the flag ceremony.
“We won't forget,” said CMA member Jean Thomas, 58, of Latrobe. “The Bible tells us that we are to place stones as a memorial, and that is exactly what this is about — a memorial, to remember. We never forget.”
Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or firstname.lastname@example.org.