They began arriving at Delaware Park in the early morning of Sept. 11, some carrying the American flag, others holding the Flag of Honor with the names of those who died in the terrorist attacks of 15 years ago.
Then, at 6:51 a.m., as the sun came up, the dozens who had gathered Sunday started walking Delaware Park’s ring road.
And they walked.
And they walked.
And they walked some more.
Throughout the day Sunday, members of Team RWB – which stands for Red, White and Blue, a nonprofit created to enrich the lives of America’s veterans – walked round and round the ring road with the goal of keeping at least one American flag and one Flag of Honor continuously moving until the sun went down at 7:32 p.m.
It was one of a number of 9/11 ceremonies held throughout the Buffalo region this weekend, and just a small, symbolic way to honor those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, and in the subsequent wars, said Dave Cash, organizer of Sunday’s event.
“It’s a challenge for us, obviously, to keep these flags moving from dawn to dusk around the ring road of the park,” said Cash, known locally as the morning traffic reporter at WGRZ-TV, “but it’s a small sacrifice that we can make for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.”
Cash serves as community outreach coordinator for the Buffalo chapter of Team RWB, a Tampa-based organization founded in 2010 to help veterans across the nation through regular social events, community service projects and fitness activities, like the one on Sunday.
Participants gathered at Delaware Park’s Agassiz Circle entrance around 5:30 a.m. for the 9/11 Dawn to Dusk Moving Tribute, the organization’s fourth annual.
The Niagara Falls Air Force Base Honor Guard played taps and there was a moment of silence before the participants stepped off at dawn. Some ran, some walked, some rode bikes, others brought kids and dogs.
Some of the participants were veterans, but many were not. All just wanted to pay tribute, in some way, on Sept. 11.
“This has almost turned into the national patriotic holiday,” said Michael Belus, 37, of North Tonawanda. “Everyone still has a story. They can still identify with it. It’s something we can all rally around.”
As the participants rounded the ring road, some would stop at a tent for rest, food and drink. Others, meanwhile, would step in to continue carrying a flag around the park.
That scene played out again and again on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, as people dropped in and out of Delaware Park to take part in the event. An estimated 300 would participate throughout the day, Cash said.
“It’s a symbol,” said Gail Yemma, captain of the Buffalo chapter of Team RWB, “a small gesture we can make to raise awareness.”
It was mid-afternoon when Yemma, 35, of West Seneca, picked up the Flag of Honor and walked next to Jen Schaller, a Town of Lockport resident who carried the American flag.
Behind them were flag bearers Belus and Christine Babin.
As they walked, they shared their own 9/11 stories.
“We all remember where we were. We all remember what we were doing,” said Babin, 33, of North Tonawanda. “It’s our generation’s Pearl Harbor.”