Those of us with cars had to move to a bank parking lot next door. The yellow vested fellow that talked to me said that the owner of the property was being a dick and complaining that we were impeding his customers. I looked over at the businesses: a nail salon and a title loan company. God forbid we keep someone from signing their life away or getting that nice, sparkly pedicure (if that’s what they’re called). But today wasn’t for getting upset over trivial things (I’m sure it wasn’t trivial to the owner of the shops), so the Marine, myself and all the other four-wheelers moved over to the already seam-bulging bank parking lot. I suspected we’d have to move again soon (after all, people need to access the root of all evil)so I took my Focus to a supermarket parking lot further down and hoofed it back.
On the way, I spotted a white utility truck with flashing red lights on the top and EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT – HOMELAND SECURITY emblazoned on the side. Great. Who invited them to the party? I imagined hiding it behind the 7-11 just for fun and wish I had bigger cojones. Just then I saw Belinda Bee, the woman who had put this whole shindig together. She was bouncing through the bank parking lot crowd like a featherweight boxer making it to the ring. I could tell even at this distance that she was a real firecracker, a genuine sparkplug, a woman who was used to handling the spotlight. She would hide the Homeland Security van in a heartbeat. I trailed behind her as she shook hands and joked with bikers, pausing long enough to check out the stuff at the merchandise table before wading through the real mass of leather and steel. It took her a good ten minutes to make it to the raised podium where a couple of fellows stood grinning from ear to ear waiting for her. I was glad there was a microphone, because it would have been utterly impossible to be heard over the thunderous noise of bikes and cheers of the horde. Still, the cheers tapered off as she faced the crowd, her face beaming with pride. I would have paid a couple hundred bucks to get on top of the Harley-Davidson roof and take photos right then, because from my spot on the ground I could see no end to the bikers and their rides.
Just as Belinda began addressing the assembly, her arms raised and her voice clear and brave, I saw something unusual just on the other side of the podium. I shouldered my way toward it, noticing for the first time a contingency of policemen on my right trying to keep a single lane open for traffic. Eventually the object made itself known to me: strapped to the back of a flatbed trailer was a magnificent statue of the numbers ‘9-1-1’. The nine shimmered in highly polished silver, and if you looked closely at it you could make out the image of the American flag as if it reflected from another source. The ones, also burnished silver, were exact replicas of the World Trade Center towers. The statue was easily ten feet tall if resting on the ground, but on the flatbed it overlooked its surrounding. I’m including a couple of photos of it so you can see just how impressive it is. It belonged there that day.
Belinda Bee began thanking everyone for being there, for all those who helped her pull the event off in those three short weeks, and for the overwhelming support and love that had sustained her through thick and thin. I heard her voice thicken with emotion and felt a lump rise in my own throat. The applause and love the bikers showered upon her was overwhelming to say the least. Imagine the tremendous effort it must have taken to handle the logistics of such a monsterous undertaking, and in less than a month. I joined my voice in thanking Belinda. We didn’t let up until she pumped her hands and arms up and down in the international symbol of “Ok, enough of that, I’ve got more to say.” She told us that everyone who was going to participate had to sign a waiver for their own safety as well as the event’s. Unfortunately, this is the way the world works now. Litigiousness demands everyone cover their ass. She then announced that every biker was going to get a sticker with the name of one of the victims of 9/11 so they could put it on their helmet or wherever they liked. Given the sheer number of bikers, I had a feeling those 3,000 names were going to be repeated many times over.
I planned on taking the Metro downtown to the National Mall before the bikers rolled through so I could film it, and decided I’d better do it now before I had to take a detour into unknown territory. I hustled back to my car and snaked my way out of the area with the help of a platoon of police officers directing traffic. It took some effort to leave that scene; I’d spent 16 hours watching the birth of an army and rubbing shoulders with warriors of the first degree. As I crept my Focus through the narrow space created by orange cones and stone-faced cops, I rolled down my windows and gave a rebel yell as the cacophony washed over me like a non-stop tsunami. The next time I would see them they would be making their presence known in the halls of Congress, the deepest recesses of the White House, the Capital dome and the height of the Washington monument.
To be Continued…