(Sept. 11, 2020) There will be no motorcycle parade or public memorial service this Sept. 11, however, the Red Knights, Maryland Chapter 3 will trudge forward and hold a private service to continue its legacy of commemorating the thousands of lives lost that day.
“On Sept. 11, 2001, everybody swore to never forget,” John Tartufo, Red Knights treasurer and event organizer, said. “Well there’s too many people that are trying to forget, they’re not passing it along and to me it’s just not right.”
On Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist group al-Qaeda launched a series of four attacks against the United States.
Four passenger airliners headed to California had been hijacked by 19 terrorists, and two, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, crashed into the North and South towers, respectively, of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, New York.
A third plane, American Airlines Flight 77, crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia.
United Airlines Flight 93, the fourth plane, crashed into a field in Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania, after passengers thwarted the hijackers plans to crash the plane in the Washington, D.C. region.
That day, 2,977 citizens died, including 343 firefighters and 72 law enforcement officers.
To commemorate the lives lost that day, the Red Knights — which is made up of firefighters, family members and supporters — revitalized the 9/11 Parade of Brothers Memorial Ride event.
The event had already been established by Harley-Davidson of Ocean City in 2002, but died out after two years.
“The president of our charter picked up the phone and called me and he said, ‘Do you think we could put on a 9/11 ride on the Boardwalk?’ and my answer was absolutely,” Tartufo said. “It was a Red Knights-only ride to start with because we had to get the blessing of the mayor and City Council.”
Tartufo said bikers are often stereotyped negatively, and so “Our idea was to prove that we could pull off a ride with no problems, and that first year we did.”
Following its inaugural event, the Red Knights sought the mayor and City Council’s approval to open it to the public and it has grown since. Last year, 400 motorcyclists registered, Tartufo said.
The event would transform once more in 2006, after the installation of the Ocean City Firefighter’s Memorial on the Boardwalk.
From then on, the Red Knight’s added a 20- to 30-minute memorial service to the itinerary to further honor the victims.
Typically, the parade begins with registration at 27th Street at 9 a.m., the parade at 11:30 a.m., the memorial service at noon and then a ride to the Moose Lodge in Roxana, Delaware, for a luncheon.
Nonetheless – as it has with most events – the covid-19 pandemic has caused the event to edit and eliminate activities, and this year there will be no parade.
This is primarily because of challenges associated with social distancing and gathering guidelines.
“If we were to do that [social distance] on 27th Street I would have people swimming in the bay waiting to register,” Tartufo said.
As for the Boardwalk, with 400 or so bikers, as well as the general public, the parade could prove a hotbed for the virus’ spread.
The service on the Boardwalk is still on schedule, but the vicinity around the memorial statue will be roped off and exclusive to members of the Red Knights, the Ocean City fire engine crew, honor guards for both entities, Police Chief Ross Buzzuro, Fire Chief Richie Bowers, Worcester County Sheriff Matt Crisafulli and Mayor Rick Meehan.
“But you know what, we’re firefighters and bikers and we can adapt,” Tartufo said.