Skip to content

The 9-11 American Challenge: A memory and a promise

Photography of Liberty State Park and the 9-11 American Challenge by Louise Uznanski and Richard Uznanski

Early morning on Sunday, September 11 as the sun began to glow over Manhattan, there was a sense of peace and calm at Liberty State Park, where in a few short hours hundreds would gather for the start of the 9-11 American Challenge.

The eight day Ride to Recovery event was to begin from the Park in view of the World Trade Center site.  More than 350 participants planned to cycle to the United 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania, and then continue to the Pentagon Memorial.  The ride would honor the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States and include survivors, family members, and first responders from 9-11, wounded veterans from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the general public.

A lone flyer surveyed the scene and pronounced the day ready.

.while Lady Liberty continued to light the way.

The still waters belied the excitement that was brewing a few miles away where the cyclists were dressed, packed, and helmeted.   They would offer a moment of silence, timed to the first of the World Trade Center attacks, before leaving their hotel for Liberty State Park.

Other celebrants were already on site.  U.S. Army marathoners ran through the Park with the flag held high.

Their colleagues kept a watchful eye from above, a reminder of  the changes made necessary by 9-11-01.


One World Trade Center was clearly visible from the site.  A symbol of independence and pride, the new building will be the tallest in America, measuring 1776 feet, when completed in 2013.

Then the cyclists arrived, hundreds of them, accompanied by support personnel, family, friends, media, and a buzz of happy chatter.

One of those cyclists, Vann Schaffner, had traveled across the country to participate in this Ride 2 Recovery event.  A Navy veteran and accomplished cyclist,

Vann shared a moment with admirers

before the start.

Spectators including the American legion

and other friends cheered the cyclists on their way.

Behind the riders, the Empty Sky Memorial stood tall.  Dedicated this very weekend, the Memorial stands in tribute to the 746 New Jersey residents who perished during the terrorist attacks.  Parallel concrete walls are lined by stainless steel and engraved with the names of each victim.  On September 11, the military honored the fallen.

Steel beams from the original World Trade Center lie just outside the Memorial.

Support staff brought up the rear as the 9-11 American Challenge riders departed.

including a motorcycle escort.

A fire boat sprayed red, white, and blue patriotism into the air

and a promise was made to cheerfully overcome life’s challenges, and to never forget.


Ride 2 Recovery is a non profit organization that supports rehabilitation programs for injured military that use cycling as the core activity.  To learn more about Ride 2 Recovery:

We would like to thank all those who contributed to the Taylor Hicks-Soul Patrol project for the 9-11 American Challenge.  Approximately $1250 was raised to support Ride 2 Recovery and Vann Schaffner’s participation in the 9-11 event.  We’d also like to thank Vann for allowing us the opportunity to work with him on this project.  Cheers, Vann!

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. TAMMY K #

    We will never forget the lives taken from us on that fateful day, and we will never forget the heroism of those who fought and continue to fight for our freedom. Sacrifices of many degrees have been made and each one for the love of our beautiful country. Bless the hearts, bless the souls of everyone and keep our Troops safe as they continue to fight. Thank you so very much from the bottom of my heart for this beautiful pictorial and for the words to describe them.

    September 12, 2011
  2. Some stunning photography. This looks like an absolutely spectacular event : emotional , uplifting and just plain fun.

    September 12, 2011
  3. Events that are captured, as has been done here; will continue to give everyone hope. This great country we live in will Never Forget or Never Fold, regardless of cowardess actions & tragic ordeals as this. God Bless each one who lost so much on that day. The experience has been etched on the hearts of many..
    Thank you for this wonderful tribute ~ Beautifully done.♥

    September 12, 2011
  4. tishtx #

    I agree with Gr8fulheat, Beautifully done!! How exciting to see the cyclist all take off after so many months of planning and anticipation. Thanks for documenting and sharing the event with everyone. 🙂

    September 12, 2011
  5. Your stunning photos & narration brought tears to my eyes. Triple kudos for this great report, and even more-so to Vann and all the riders participating! This is just wonderful. Thank you Louise and Richard, and thank you Vann and Ride to Recovery for your support of our injured heroes. God Bless your journey, and God bless our troops and America.

    September 13, 2011
  6. I love your work, both photos and and the written message. It is not an easy subject because it is so highly emotional. However, you captured the event masterfully. Thank you for doing this from the bottom of my heart and to all those honored here.

    September 13, 2011
  7. Judy #

    Louise and Mac…great photos. Thank you for bringing your thoughts and pictures to us to this amazing event.

    September 13, 2011
  8. Gail & John Hagen Jr. #

    Your pictures display so much emotion. The flag unfurling in the wind almost brought me to tears. There are no words to express feelings that run so deep with pain to heal ones heart but you have accomplished that with your photographs again and again. Thank you both for sharing these beautiful photographs as we remember the day that changed all our lives forever.

    October 10, 2011

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: