Maspeth man laments end of 9/11 memorial ride

Patrick Kearns Queens Ledger

In the decade-plus following the tragic attacks on September 11, every year Maspeth’s Sam Sampogna and hundreds rode from the crash site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, through our nation’s capital to Ground Zero.

Riders en route from Shanksville photo courtesy of Queens Ledger

Riders en route from Shanksville photo courtesy of Queens Ledger

With volunteers lacking, next year could be the last year they take the ride.

Sampogna recalled the ride as it’s grown and morphed over the years, with nearly 400 riders registered this year. The streets along the ride through Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey were lined with supporters, fire trucks draped with American flags and police escorts. People come out as early as 7 a.m. to show their support in places, but it’s changed a lot since the early rides.

“We went to the first ride and there was nothing where we went,” Sampogna said, recalling the first visit to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where Flight 93 crashed.

He pulled out photos of a vacant field and a rolling hill. It was a picturesque scene of nature, with no sign that there was ever a disturbance; no sign of the tragedy that took place.

Now years later, there’s a memorial wall with the names of the victims, which is part of a greater memorial park at the site. Sampogna said every year he’s drawn to the same woman, whose name is placed next to the memory of her unborn child.

“It seems like every year I’ve gone to this wall, I wind up stopping there,” he said. “It’s just like she’s calling me to say hello.”

Sampogna recalled the support they received from local residents, older veterans standing and saluting. He said some people will give them water. But it’s not the same in New York City. He said when they come into New York, there’s no big reception. A few highway officers block parts of the road for safety, but there’s no real recognition of the ride.

“It’s a shame that when we come into New York, there’s nothing there,” he said. “I know as we move further and further away from the date, people are starting to forget. And we can’t forget because the World Trade Center touched everybody’s life somehow.”

Sampogna specifically wondered why the NYPD and FDNY don’t support the ride. It’s possible, he said, if someone takes over they can continue the ride, but for now it looks like 2016 will be the last year.

“It’s a shame that this ride is coming to an end, and it’s basically coming to an end because for the past 14 years they’ve been all volunteers, and they’re getting tired,” he said. “It’s kind of a shame that it’s ending, but it’s more of a shame that the people of New York are not coming out to support us.”

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