As soon as 70-year-old Harvey Mayhill found out that terrorist bombings killed three people and injured more than 145 others at the Boston Marathon, he grabbed his American flag and headed for the Sutton Road bridge over Interstate 77 in Fort Mill.
Late Monday and then again Tuesday morning, Mayhill waved the flag from the same place his late friend Leonard Farrington did for years on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
The reason is simple, said Mayhill: “I stand here before the world to show that the terrorists can’t beat America.”
Trucks and cars streamed underneath the bridge and tooted and hooted and honked. Mayhill waved to them with his free hand and waved his 4-by-6-foot flag with the other hand. When his arm got tired, he switched hands.
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He did not quit. Americans do not quit.
“America is the home of the free; it is not some song but real; it means something,” Mayhill said. “What Leonard started on this bridge matters when we have to show that standing up for freedom and decency is the American way.
“Terrorists, well, I can’t say what I would do to them because that language is not what a good, God-fearing Christian man should say, but I am sure thinking it.”
Farrington, a World War II Navy combat veteran, waved for more than a decade before he died in 2012 at 89. He attracted so much attention – despite doing it solely for his love of country – that the bridge soon will be dedicated as the “Patriot Leonard A. Farrington 9/11 Memorial Bridge.”
The Legislature has ratified the bridge name and all that remains is a signature from the governor and ordering of signs.
This bridge, where Harvey Mayhill stood Tuesday morning, will for eternity be a bridge dedicated to a man who loved America and would wave a flag to show it.
So after the awful event in Boston on Monday, Mayhill and Farrington’s widow, Betty Farrington, headed for Leonard’s bridge.
Betty, at 85, waved her husband’s flag for a few minutes.
“Leonard would have been there after Boston,” Betty Farrington said. “He would have waved the flag again and made sure people knew that terrorists can’t defeat this great country.”
It remains unclear who committed the terrorist acts in Boston, or whether the heinous act came from foreigners or disgruntled Americans. Leonard Farrington never cared for politics, saying that love of country had no party or affiliation.
Mayhill, waving that flag Tuesday, said there is no politics to trying to share American patriotism with others and standing as a unified country against senseless acts that kill and wound.
“The American people don’t put up with terrorism and killing little kids and mothers and good people, and waving this flag shows that,” he said. “This flag is what unites us all, every color and religion and everything else.
“We are America, all of us, and together nothing can stop us. Not these damn terrorists who set off bombs, I can tell you that.”
For the past two years on Sept. 11, Mayhill and others with the Rolling Thunder group, which advocates for veterans, have waved flags from York County bridges in honor of Farrington’s flag waving. Rolling Thunder will do it again this year on 9/11.
But Boston happened, so Mayhill acted.
Mayhill looked up into the sky Tuesday, and held up that flag to the chorus of honks from the thousands of vehicles passing below.
“Leonard wanted to always show that terrorists can’t win in this great country,” Mayhill said. “Somewhere up there, in heaven, he’s waving his flag on a bridge, too.
“And he’s shouting at those terrorists – and the terrorists are running away scared.”