Terrorists could not stop Leonard Farrington from waving his American flag from a Fort Mill bridge on Sept. 11 every year until he died.
So wind and rain from the fringes of Hurricane Irma that lashed South Carolina Monday did not stop dedicated volunteers - including Farrington’s widow- from waving their flags.
Thousands of drivers on the busy highway honked their horns in appreciation on the 16th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in American history.
“I needed to be here, even with the weather,” said Betty Farrington, 90, the widow of Leonard Farrington. “I honor all the victims of 9/11. Leonard would want me to be here.”
Many members of Rolling Thunder, a veterans advocacy group, stood on the bridge with flags as they do every year on the anniversary.
“This is honoring all those who died, and the courage and heroism of so many on that day,” said Al Guest, president of the Rock Hill chapter of Rolling Thunder. “The weather isn’t good, but it isn’t anything compared to what happened that day.”
The tradition started after the 2001 attacks, when World War II veteran from Rock Hill Leonard Farrington, 80 at the time, walked out onto the Sutton Road bridge and waved the American flag for hours.
Farrington did it each year afterward. His cause, reported in The Herald and heraldonline.com, was adopted by groups such as Rolling Thunder and others.
Farrington died in 2012.
South Carolina named the Sutton Road bridge the Leonard A. Farrington 9/11 Memorial Bridge, in honor of Farrington’s patriotism and resolve.
His actions spurred other flag-waving bridge groups around South Carolina and the nation.
The volunteers stood on both sides of the bridge, facing northbound and southbound traffic on the highway that passed beneath. Trucks honked, and several vehicles with American flags flying from poles left the highway to roll across the bridge.
Harvey Mayhill, a U.S. Air Force veteran from Rock Hill who has helped organize the event since Farrington died, said 9/11 remains an American day of patriotism, togetherness, unity and common purpose.
“Today is a day we all show that America can’t be divided,” Mayhill said.
Mayhill and others said it cannot even be divided by bad weather caused by Irma that battered the Caribbean, and was still battering Florida Monday morning.
Guest, a Vietnam War combat veteran, said that waving the flags, and also helping those affected by Irma, shows that together Americans can overcome anything.
Betty Farrington, 90, put on her rain gear and stood in the wind and rain. She waved the same flag her husband took off the couple’s porch 16 years ago, to wave on the same bridge.
Rain splashed her, wind buffeted her, but Betty Farrington waved her flag.
“And I always will,” she said.