FORT MILL — Truckers rolled by Tuesday, and many of them pulled on those long horns that fill the sky with the sound that booms. Cars drove by and tooted, flashed lights.
A guy driving south on Interstate 77 in an old Pontiac slowed down to maybe 35 mph and stuck his fist in the air through the sunroof.
America, brother! that guy shouted as he passed underneath the Sutton Road bridge that held people waving American flags.
Most of the people waving flags on that bridge and others in York County were members of Rolling Thunder, a veterans advocacy group. But one flag waver was different.
Im here to wave, Betty Farrington, 84, declared. She waved and talked about how Leonard, her husband of 64 years, was waving up there in heaven somewhere.
Farrington stood there and stood there as the minutes turned into an hour or more. She never stopped waving that flag.
Just like her late husband, starting in September 2001, right after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington that killed almost 3,000 people. Leonard Farrington waved his American flag that first year the day after Sept. 11. He waved the flag from that bridge on Sept. 11 in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
Only in 2005 did he stop because police said he might cause a traffic problem.
Leonard loved this country, said Farrington. Those terrorists, they really riled him up. He waved the flag because that was how he could tell them they could not beat America.
Leonard Farrington, Navy combat veteran from World War II, died earlier this year at 89, but his selfless gesture of standing up for those who died in the attacks and the troops who fought in the wars that followed the attacks lives on.
Rolling Thunder took over the 9/11 flag-waving on the Sutton Road bridge and others last year to show support for the fallen and the troops.
When Osama Bin Laden was killed last year, Leonard waved his flag from the bridge one last time. He needed oxygen and he walked as slow as time passes, but he waved it for a few minutes.
This year, Betty Farrington wanted to do what her husband had done. So on Tuesday, she drove right to the edge of the bridge, walked onto the span and grabbed a flag.
America never seemed stronger, 11 years after such a horrible day.
The flag-wavers on the York County bridges were not alone Tuesday in remembering the 9/11 attacks.
In 2011 volunteer firefighters from Bethesda and Oakdale departments south of Rock Hill dedicated a monument at York Countys fire training grounds three granite stones and a 14-foot piece of beam from the rubble of the World Trade Center.
At a prayer service there Tuesday, 35 firefighters and other volunteers showed up to remember the 400-plus firefighters, police officers and emergency workers and all the others killed 11 years ago.
No huge ceremony, Judge Leon Yard said, describing Tuesday.
There was a huge ceremony last year on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, when the monument was dedicated in front of several hundred people.
Yard and another York County magistrate, Bob Davenport, were instrumental in doing the work to get the monument in place by 2011. But the smaller ceremony was not because the people involved cared less than 2011. These volunteers might even care more now.
The number of people who came today is not as important as this monument here that is dedicated to all those who died that day, Davenport said.
In tiny Fort Lawn in Chester County, volunteer firefighter Richard Hulse put a wreath on a sculpture made from a piece of the World Trade Center. Because of flagging attendance, Hulse did not have a public ceremony this year. But he showed up to remember the three firemen he knew who died on 9/11.
I dont care if there is one person here or a hundred and one, I will always do something on this day, Hulse said.
Back on I-77, Vietnam War veteran Dick King stood on the Anderson Road bridge with another guy and waved a flag all morning, hearing almost-constant honks and toots and seeing flashing lights in reply.
The flag-wavers were also there so people dont forget that the Army National Guard 178th Combat Engineers based in Rock Hill recently sent 168 soldiers to Afghanistan. Some in the unit are in their second, third or fourth deployments.
Its an honor, said King. This is what people do in America. They stand up. All those soldiers in Afghanistan right now, you have to remember them.
Rolling Thunder members were on bridges at Gold Hill Road, Coltharp Road and Sutton Road in Fort Mill; and Eden Terrace, Anderson Road, Firetower Road, and near S.C. 901 in Rock Hill.
At the Sutton Road bridge, drivers stopped and thanked the flag-wavers.
Leonard Farrington showed that Americans never forget 9/11, and we never forget 9/11, said Barry Burke, president of Rolling Thunders Rock Hill chapter.
Next to Betty Farrington, Vietnam War combat veteran Ron Reagan, 63, stood with the flagpole in his left hand, his right hand in a salute.
I salute America, those who died in that terrible day and every one of our men and women who are out there in the world today wearing a uniform, said Reagan.
Across the bridge stood Gino Del Buono, 72, a Vietnam War Navy combat veteran.
To continue what Mr. Farrington started, waving these flags out here, it is an honor and a privilege, Del Buono said.
There were no politicians on any of the I-77 bridges or at either of the informal monument ceremonies.
Regular guys fight wars and fight fires and die saving people in terrorist attacks and bombing raids. So it is regular people who wave these flags on 9/11 in York County.
Betty Farrington was asked Tuesday why she did what she did, standing on that bridge. She remembered those soldiers from Rock Hill in Afghanistan. She remembered a life of wars, those dead in the wars, and the living who came back.
She recalled her husband enlisting for World War II and being gone five years.
There is one life you get, and you live your life with a smile and you do the best you can do, Farrington said. You cant say you wished you had done a little something.
You have to do something in this world, if you want to make a difference.
Andrew Dys 803-329-4065 firstname.lastname@example.org