By: Ilanit Chernick. Pictures: Nhlanhla Phillips and Ilanit Chernick
Johannesburg: The deep drone could be heard streets away as hundreds of motorcyclists weaved their machines through Modderfontein in Ekurhuleni.
The riders were taking part in a memorial ride commemorating the 15th anniversary of the deadly September 11 attacks in the United States.
With bagpipes reverberating solemnly, the more than 900 riders were welcomed at the Fireman’s Tavern after a slow ride from Centurion to Johannesburg.
“We're here to remember the sacrifice of the 343 heroes (firefighters). We are also here to remember those involved in saving 18 000 lives on that day,” said Lorry Fischer, station commander at South African Emergency Care.
Taking part in the 9/11 memorial ride were several motorcycle clubs, the Volkswagen Club, ER24, Offroad Rescue Unit and the SAPS, among others. As the group rode past, American flags flown in solidarity flapped wildly in the wind.
Louise Staffie, who was riding with the Christian Motorcycle Association, said it was incredible to see so many people taking part in remembering those who died on September 11.
Donning a silver fireman's hat, former firefighter Brian Muller said it was important to remember “our fallen brothers and sisters”.
“As former firefighters, we can relate to the risks they took and as South Africans we feel for what happened - it’s difficult.”
‘Blown away by the turnout’
City of Tshwane firefighter Gordon Kuhn added that “it reminds us of what we’re up against every day.
“We know what it’s like to be trapped and we understand the high risks. The important part here is to be there for each other. I feel very proud to be a part of this and to be here,” he said.
The 9/11 commemoration ride was organised by Firefighters Johannesburg and the SAEC.
One of the organisers from Firefighters Johannesburg, Elmare Liebenberg, said she was blown away by the turnout.
“I'm overwhelmed, it's the first time we've done the memorial ride and we were expecting maybe 100 riders. To see so many people here showing their support for the 343 fallen firemen is awesome,” she said.
Following the ride, a short memorial service was held, where firemen and emergency personnel did a slow procession while a flag-lowering ceremony took place.
As the flag was folded and handed to SAEC chief Jan Liebenberg, the Star Spangled Banner was sung.
Fisher concluded the moving ceremony and reminded the attendees that “when we walk away today, we must never forget those who perished”.
Lest we forget
On the morning of September 11, 2001, 19 men hijacked four American airliners which were originally destined for the west coast of the United States. Two of the aircraft were flown into the World Trade Centre’s North and South Towers. A total of 2977 people were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
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