NEWARK, New Jersey - Relatives of the victims of Flight 93 - the United Airlines jetliner that crashed in Pennsylvania as passengers wrestled with hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001 - are honouring their loved ones with a cross-country motorcycle ride.
The flight originated in New Jersey and was bound for California when four terrorists hijacked it, and the motorcycle caravan will retrace the flight's intended path. The caravan left Newark Liberty International Airport on Thursday morning at 8:42 a.m. - the same time as the flight - and is to arrive in San Francisco on the eighth anniversary of the attacks.
The 9/11 Commission report said the hijackers crashed the plane as passengers fought to regain control of the cockpit, averting a possible attack on the White House or U.S. Capitol. Thirty-three passengers and seven crew members died.
For Ken Nacke, a 48-year-old police detective in Maryland, the cross-country trip, called "Ride with the Forty," is a way to keep their memory alive. His older brother Louis "Joey" Nacke died in the crash.
"We're completing their journey," Nacke said. "This is something that Americans should never forget. Flight 93 was the first battle Americans won against terrorism."
The ride also will raise money for the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the plane crashed. The 2,200-acre (890-hectare) memorial, which is expected to cost $58 million, is scheduled to open on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
Eight motorcycles and nine passengers rolled out of Newark on the first leg of the cross-country journey Thursday. The first stop is Shanksville.
Nacke organized the ride and said anyone who cares about Flight 93 and Sept. 11 and what they represent is welcome to join in all or part of the nine-day journey. At least 20 relatives and friends of the passengers and crew already are expected to participate, he said.
Sarah Wainio, 22, of Catonsville, Maryland, was the youngest participant Thursday. She was 14 when her 27-year-old sister, Honor Elizabeth Wainio, died aboard Flight 93. Wainio said she still thinks about her big sister whenever she visits their favourite diner or hears her favourite music.
"It might be easier to forget it happened, but we can't do that, it would be a disservice to them," Wainio said, propping a pair of sunglasses on her nose as she climbed onto the passenger seat of one of the bikes. "If we don't remember it, and we don't feel the pain, that's saying it didn't happen."
An interactive display on the group's Web site allows people to track the riders' progress and join them along the way. It's linked to a GPS device that updates the group's location every 10 minutes. The caravan includes two large support trucks and two trailers decorated with graphics related to 9/11.
Louis Nacke, who was 42 when he died, had a catch phrase "if it's free, it's for me," and friends and relatives think of him whenever they hear a free offer, Nacke said.
"It was a year I try to forget, but you can't," Nacke said. "I believe that even although our loved ones have left us they continue to live on as long as we talk about them. That's part of the reason for this ride."
On the Net:
Cross-country motorcycle ride: http://www.ridewiththe40.org
Flight 93 National Memorial: http://www.nps.gov/flni/