bobandgeriSeptember 6, 2011 at 9:01 pmPost count: 53bobandgeriSeptember 10, 2011 at 10:49 amPost count: 53
Here is the link and article that is in the NAshua Telegraph this morning:
On Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of people and emergency personnel climbed for life at the World Trade Center. They climbed up and down stairs. They climbed through piles of rubble. They climbed over fallen bodies.
Every September since, dedicated hikers have climbed New Hampshire’s mountains to raise American flags as a token of gratitude and remembrance for those who died 10 years ago.
The annual event is known as the Flags on the 48, and hikers break off in groups each year to climb one of New Hampshire’s 48 mountains above 4,000 feet.
“It’s a way for the hiking community to pay tribute to our fallen heroes, reflect on the sorrow we felt that day and to express our patriotism for our country,” said David Cormier, a hiker from Nashua.
Cormier has hiked Mount Osceola, Mount Moosilauke, Mount Jackson, Mount Willey, and the north peak of Mount Twin in the past five years to remember Sept. 11. This weekend, he and several others will carry a flag up Mount Garfield.
Bob Hayes, of Merrimack, has hiked in the event every year since Sept. 11 with his wife, Geri. This year, the couple will hike Mount Moosilauke with a small group of friends and other hikers.
When they reach the summit, they will raise the flag that covered the coffin of New York firefighter Chris Pickford, who died while searching for survivors inside one of the towers when the building collapsed.
“What makes this event even more special is that it is not organized by a town or state government, it is ‘us’ – the hikers, family members, and friends of loved ones that have created this event to come together to remember and give tribute to those that lost their lives,” Hayes said.
“It is inspiring to see the American flag hoisted on a mountaintop while surrounded by people from all walks of life, brought together to remember those that gave so dearly that day.”
The event has grown throughout the decade. Hayes said it started with passionate hikers, but it has expanded to include many recreational climbers as well.
Tim Lucia, of Bedford, found the event by accident while he was out hiking Mount Flume and Mount Liberty in 2006. He joined a group that was carrying an American flag for the event and said he was “struck by the enthusiasm of the volunteers.”
Lucia said through his later involvement with some of the online hiking communities, he’s become immersed in the Flags on the 48 event. This year, he’ll be part of the crew that raises a flag on West Bond, a 15-mile round-trip hike into the middle of the Pemigewasset Wilderness.
Hikers from other states have discovered and participated in the event as well.
Roland Morries, 50, of Billerica, Mass., lost a close friend on Sept. 11, John Wenkus, and uses the Flags on the 48 event to remember Wenkus.
Wenkus died aboard American Airlines Flight 11, which struck the World Trade Center’s north tower. He was returning home to California but grew up next door to Morris’ wife in Waltham, Mass.
Morris carries Wenkus’ picture with him every year, and he tells stories to his fellow hikers about his friend.
“It’s fun in some respects and somber in others,” he said. “You’re enjoying your passion of being out there in the back country and enjoying your hiking hobby, but at the same time you’re reflecting on the events that had taken place and the people that were lost.”
Morris has now climbed all but one of New Hampshire’s 48 peaks above 4,000 feet. He hiked Mount Lafayette in 2010 and West Bond in 2009 with Flags on the 48 groups.
“It combined my passion and love of hiking with remembering the people that were lost on that day,” Morris said.
Last year, atop Mount Lafayette, one person was so struck with emotion that she broke out signing the Star Spangled Banner, Morris said. Soon, everyone joined in.
“It gave you a real sense of pride and patriotism,” Morris said.
David Vogel, 54, of Cambridge, Mass., has coordinated hikes for many years and plans to lead a group on Sunday up New Hampshire’s tallest mountain, Mount Washington.
He thought about stopping in 2006 after the five-year anniversary. He said it seemed like an honorable way to end the tradition, but that day, atop Mount Carrigain, the full magnitude of the event’s significance was revealed.
Vogel said a couple of women in non-hiking gear – “pearl necklaces and so on,” – struggled but persevered to reach the summit and told the group how important the Flags on the 48 was to them.
“They were widows of 9/11 and every year, they looked at pictures on the site and it really meant something to them that people remembered,” Vogel said. “The fact that we could go out there and do something we really liked, hiking, and also give comfort to people who had suffered grieving losses because of this … that made it really meaningful.”
Vogel also uses the hike as a “symbolic way to pay back firefighters,” he said. After suffering severe burns in a house fire and spending two months in a coma recovering, Vogel has become an advocate to help burn survivors and their heroes: firefighters.
“During a time when a lot of people are going to be looking back on what they lost and who they missed, it’s a chance for us to say, ‘We remember, too,’” he said.
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