FEATURING MIKE ANDERSON OF ALEXANDRIA'S HOMEGROWN GROUP
Story by Liesel Schmidt
We all remember that day 21 years ago when the world changed forever—when everything we thought we knew seemed to crumble into a pile of ashes as the Twin Towers fell, first one and then the other. Then the Pentagon was hit. Our sense of security was shattered, but we came together as a nation as we mourned our losses. Then, on the one-year anniversary, hundreds of first responders gathered to ride from the Pentagon to Ground Zero to honor the fallen and remember the sacrifice so many made in rescue missions.
At the time, Alexandria hot spot Mango Mike’s was a frequent lunch stop for a number of DC area police, a place they were greeted with hospitality and respect. Being the owner, restauranteur Mike Anderson was approached about the possibility of feeding those hundreds of men and women who planned to gather for that auspicious ride. Naturally, his curiosity was piqued, and he inquired about going along and participating. Despite the fact that the ride was limited to first responder participants, Anderson was given the green light, so he bought a hybrid bike and began to train for the multiple-day Ride to Remember. “It was our modern-day Pearl Harbor,” says Anderson, who rode in honor of his business partner’s sister-in-law, an American Airlines flight attendant who lost her life when Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. “There were so many senseless deaths, and it was such a terrible tragedy. We could actually hear the explosion from the restaurant when the plane hit.”
'When we got to the site of the first tower, we all stopped and took off our helmets and had a moment of silence... it was a really emotional and incredible experience.' - Mike Anderson
Being part of such a historic event left an indelible impression on Anderson, who has deep ties to the area as the owner of Homegrown Restaurant Group. “So many of the men and women on this ride had actually been part of the rescue efforts at the Pentagon,” he recalls, “so we would ride, and they would share their stories. When we got to the site of the first tower, we all stopped and took off our helmets and had a moment of silence to reflect and remember and honor all the people who had lost their lives to this one day. It was a really emotional and incredible experience, being with these brave, pure-hearted Americans who had been through so much.”
Twenty-one years later, much has changed over the landscape. Mango Mike's has come and gone, Ground Zero has been memorialized in a monument and a new tower built on the site, the Pentagon has been restored and the nation has healed its wounds. But we still have scars. We still remember. And Anderson still carries the stories he heard on that long ago ride.