Flag is Carried Across Country For September 11

Originally appeared in Silent News, December 2001.

The United States flag has long been a source of pride and patriotism. In the wake of the recent tragedies in the nation, the flag has suddenly become even more meaningful and necessary. Americans United Flag Across America was one of the organizations trying to help raise funds by carrying the flag from Boston to Los Angeles between Oct. 11 and Nov. 11.

The starting and ending locations symbolized the original departure and arrival locations of American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, which were hijacked by terrorists on Sept. 11 and crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. Proceeds from the run will go towards the victims of these attacks.

Bill Estes of Alabama, along with his uncle, Benje Estes, and Bill’s 10-year-old son Cody, ran with the flag in Talladega County, Ala., on Sunday, Oct. 21. Bill and Benje were the only known deaf runners who participated in this run. “We got involved after getting information from our friend in Atlanta. We decided to volunteer through the website,” Bill said. “We ran four miles in the eastern part of Eastaboga, and ran into Eastaboga on US-78 heading to Lincoln.”

The flag carried across the country was flown over Iraq in the cockpit of a U.S. F-16 in support of Operation Southern Watch on Oct. 2. “We hope to do the very thing that we are doing – honor our fallen crews and others killed in the aircraft attacks on Sept. 11 and remind the nation that the flag was flying when we went through tough times in the past,” said First Officer Todd Wissing, the national coordinator of communications for the run.

The Estes made an impression on those who watched them participate. Alabama’s coordinator for the run Pat Ryan said, “I was absolutely awestruck at how dedicated and motivated to the cause they and their families were. They had a large entourage with them, some [deaf] and some not.”

Ryan said that each of the Estes trio ran two segments of two to three miles at night without extra escorts. “Bill and Benje are both well-trained distance runners and could run like the wind. The fact that these two deaf gentlemen ran with the flag at night across hilly terrain in the most challenging conditions we encountered in the state is testament to the fact that they are truly great American patriots who love their country and are not afraid to show it.”

However, Bill was modest about his participation, saying, “It is hard to describe the experience. What ran through my mind when I ran was how difficult it is to be in the war and how bad it is in New York, D.C., and Pennsylvania compared to what I was doing – I was only running four miles.”

Wissing said, “”If we want to remain free, we have to now be brave – and we as a people and a nation are up to these challenges, just as we have been in the past. That is the message we are sending.”

For more information on the run, visit www.flagrun.org.

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