The solemn melody of a bagpiper’s “Amazing Grace” cut the air Sunday afternoon as hundreds of people in Burpee Park dropped to their knees for a special salute to Sept. 11’s fallen heroes.
Sixteen-year-old Kristin stood and joined dozens of other young volunteers and scouts around a central flag that flew at half mast. She carried a red sign labeled “James Berger, Lower Makefield. Tower 2.”
Although Kristin didn’t know Berger personally and was only six years old when the towers fell 10 years ago, she said she wanted to volunteer because she’s grown up surrounded by patriotism.
“It’s hard for people my age and younger to remember what the world was like before Sept. 11,” she said. “This is all we know.”
The Travis Manion Foundation hosted Sunday afternoon’s “patriotic flash mob,” which honored 19 Bucks County residents, three policemen and one emergency responder who perished in the Sept. 11 attacks, along with a number of local soldiers – including Manion – who were killed in the war thereafter.
Following the salute was the foundation’s fourth annual through Doylestown, one of more than 35 races held across the country and the world on Sept. 11.
“It’s amazing to have accomplished what we set out to do in our grassroots movement, which is achieve community by community,” said Travis Manion’s sister, Ryan Manion-Borek.
Carrying her 2-year-old daughter Honor – named for her brother’s legacy – Manion-Borek said she was thrilled with Doylestown’s turnout, which included about 900 registered runners and hundreds more who volunteered and cheered along the route.
At New York City’s 9/11 Heroes Run earlier in the day, Manion-Borek said two cyclists who had just completed a ride across the country joined in the race last minute. More than 3,000 people came out in support in Houston.
“It’s so much bigger than [Travis], as it should be,” she said. “He’d want to honor them.”
The sea of red, white and blue shirted supporters moved down State Street toward the starting line at Starbucks, and were met with a giant American flag draped from the ladder of a Doylestown fire engine.
Before the race began, Travis’s uncle Chris Manion, mother Janet Manion, and radio host Michael Smerconish shared words of inspiration.
“Do not run with a heavy heart…run in cheer to show the world we are stronger and more united than ever,” Janet Manion said.
After the national anthem, a horn sounded to start the kids’ fun run. Slowly, teary eyes began to clear and smiles brightened somber faces.
The 5K commenced soon after, with hundreds of runners carrying flags and signs for the fallen through the streets of town.
Watching the festivities from the sidewalk, 10-year-old Bailey Weinhold of Doylestown cheered with her family. She was just seven months old when the attacks occurred, but has learned about the day through her parents’ stories and a trip to Ground Zero last year.
“It’s sad because so many people died. But a lot of people were so brave too,” she said.
Sporting a New York shirt, she thought about her favorite part of living in America: “All the great cities,” she said – a beautifully innocent reminder that the nation endures today.