The excitement was palpable among those standing on the Newport Boulevard overpass above Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach on Saturday afternoon.
Not the kind of excitement of say, celebrating Fourth of July, but something not too far off. It was a kind of shared enthusiasm acknowledging that on such a somber day, nine years from when nearly 3,000 people died at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in rural Pennsylvania, the nation remembers the fallen and unites.
The small group of about 20 bystanders, about a dozen firefighters and one police officer waited for a crowd larger than theirs to come down Coast Highway, equally united and roaring through Orange County.
They were waiting for participants in The Ride, an annual commemoration of the 9/11 terrorist attacks where hundreds, if not more than 1,000 motorcycle riders gather in Trabuco Canyon and take the coastal route through Newport, Huntington Beach and into Long Beach. Riders joined along the way, others peeled off, but those passing through Newport Beach smiled and waved peace signs and American flags during their heartfelt tour.
"Every year we cry," said Newport Beach resident Julie Mattson on the overpass, small American flag in hand drawing countless supporting honks from passing cars. "It's the least we can do."
Bob Blayden from Huntington Beach was on the bridge well before the convoy came by and people started to congregate. He said last year he got to ride on the Avalon truck. This year he was wearing a New York Fire Department shirt and stood on the overpass with a telephoto lens waiting for the thunderous train of hundreds of motorcycles.
"Something's got to make us remember," he said. "It's a sad time in history. With the media outlets we have today, a lot of us saw that happening rather than just reading about it. You didn't want to believe it."
Newport Beach firefighters brought two fire trucks to the bridge and stood atop as the motorcycles rode by.
"From tragedy, it's brought us all closer," said fire Capt. Chris Brown. "It's great we're not forgetting anything. The significance of the event brings the whole country together."