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Bond of grief yields strength

By Times Staff Writers
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 12, 2003

TAMPA - They started their engines, and the earth trembled.

They came by the thousands on the second anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to meet along Dale Mabry Highway on shiny bikes, on old bikes, on Harleys and Hondas, on bikes toting American flags, on bikes carrying tattooed men and shapely women, on bikes with attitude and thundering mufflers.

They wore leather and patriotic T-shirts with slogans like, "Proud to be an American." One guy brought his parrot, Spike. They cooked hot dogs and hamburgers. A few sipped beers.

And then they rode. To remember.

"We have big hearts," said Pam Peterson, a nurse from New Port Richey, as she surveyed the crowd Thursday evening. "I think this is representative of how the rest of the community feels. They just don't ride motorcycles."

The caravan stretched forever as it snaked 11 miles through the city, toward the finish at the St. Pete Times Forum.

The streets unfolded, one after another. The world passed, a sea of faces - old, young, black, white, Native American, Asian, African, Hispanic, Middle Eastern.

Somewhere amid the sea of horsepower, 54-year-old Manuel Guzman rode his 2003 Harley Softail, taking it all in. A Vietnam veteran from Texas, Guzman is part Mexican, part Cherokee, part Comanche.

"When you look at America, you see everybody," he said, "a little of everything."

With that, he gunned the Harley and it rumbled underneath him, and the cheering faces passed in a blur. The sun was setting, and he smiled as the wind washed over him.


ST. PETERSBURG - You couldn't find the name James Morgan on the official program of Thursday's Sept. 11 memorial gathering at the Florida International Museum.

But soon after the 72-year-old St. Petersburg retiree walked in, people noticed his New York City Fire Department uniform and learned he had spent 24 years working there. So St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker called on Morgan to light candles for the other dignitaries.

Morgan called it a "solemn, excellent ceremony" which helped him "honor and remember my 343 buddies who passed away in 9/11."

Speakers at Thursday's ceremony sought to honor the people who died on Sept. 11, but also to celebrate America's strengths.

"I am saddened as we all are," said state Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Treasure Island. But he said "we should hold our heads high and celebrate our dogged determination to perpetuate the freedom and democracy."

Baker said since the terrorist attacks, "America's more patriotic now. You can see the flag flying in homes across America, in businesses, in storefronts, even on the backs of fire trucks."

He said Americans also were showing a renewed respect for freedom, and added "we've changed because we gather for prayer more. ... I hope that we continue as a country to turn to God and ask for his guidance."

The museum is displaying a special exhibit, "After 9/11," which showcases photographs of the World Trade Center site, letters from around the world expressing sympathy over the attacks and prints of the World Trade Center that St. Petersburg artist Yuri Hayashi mailed anonymously to a fire station near his home and the New York City Fire Department.


TAMPA - Colonel Brian T. Kelly, commander of the 6th Operations Group at MacDill Air Force Base, told a gathering at Veterans Memorial Park in Tampa about his work in the Pentagon and how he felt upon learning about the attack.

"Terrorists attacked my building," he said. "I very much admired the American spirit in the immediate aftermath. What I was watching was hope struggling against fear."


TAMPA - Religious and civic leaders representing area Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims led a lunch-hour interfaith prayer service Tuesday at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in downtown Tampa.

About 60 worshipers gathered for the event, which had a theme of remembrance with perseverance. Worshipers remembered and honored those who had fallen, while offering cautionary prayers about the future.

"Guard and guide our leaders and all our peoples that, in our search for security, we may not trample the rights of the innocent nor disregard the rule of law," the gathering prayed. "Let us not confuse leadership within the global community as the voice for the whole community."

Leaders from different faiths each offered a prayer to the congregation.

"God wants us to have faith in him," said Muhammad Sultan, director and imam for the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay. "He wants us to work together to establish good."


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