2002-09-25 / Front Page

Hundreds turn out to honor Joe Driscoll

Family, friends believe longtime
Manalapan resident answered
call to action on Flight 93
By kathy baratta
Staff Writer

Hundreds turn out
to honor Joe Driscoll
Family, friends believe longtime
Manalapan resident answered
call to action on Flight 93
By kathy baratta
Staff Writer


PHOTOS BY JERRY WOLKOWITZ  Runners leave the starting line at the Sept. 14 Walk With Joe 5K memorial walk/run at Monmouth Battlefield State Park.PHOTOS BY JERRY WOLKOWITZ Runners leave the starting line at the Sept. 14 Walk With Joe 5K memorial walk/run at Monmouth Battlefield State Park.

MANALAPAN — When Patrick "Joe" Driscoll and his fellow passengers on Flight 93 joined together to — as is generally believed — save the lives of strangers on the ground, could they have known that the actions they would take the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, would affect the lives of loved ones and strangers forever?

Their sacrifice was the reason that about a thousand people gathered at Monmouth Battlefield State Park on Sept. 14 to honor Driscoll, 70, a longtime Manalapan resident whose life and legacy will forever be an inspiration to family, friends and all who know of it.

Former Manalapan residents came from as far away as California and Florida to walk or run at the Walk With Joe 5K memorial walk/run, an event organized to celebrate and honor a man loved and respected by so many.

It was a sunny, clear day when they all drew together; some remarked it was as beautiful a morning as "that day had been," referring to Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. However, instead of invoking sadness, the glory of the day and the reason they were there prevailed and a celebration began of a life well-lived and lost with honor.


Maureen Driscoll sings “God Bless America” during opening ceremonies of the event honoring her late husband.Maureen Driscoll sings “God Bless America” during opening ceremonies of the event honoring her late husband.

Brothers Chris Wargins, 27, and John Wargins, 36, were joined in the run by their friend Keith Farrell, 37.

Speaking for all three men about Driscoll, their former sports coach who was also active in his church, Farrell said, "Mr. Driscoll was always there for the community. There was no way we were not going to be here for him. We wouldn’t be anywhere else."

Shari Goldstein Schmidt, 42, of Somerville, grew up in the Yorktowne section of Manalapan and was friends during her teen years with Driscoll’s son, Patrick.

"I had to come back here for this, not only for Pat and Mr. Driscoll, but for the town as well," she said.


Youngsters get into the spirit of the Sept. 14  Walk With Joe, held to honor the memory of Flight 93 passenger Joe Driscoll.Youngsters get into the spirit of the Sept. 14 Walk With Joe, held to honor the memory of Flight 93 passenger Joe Driscoll.

Jay Gray, 36, of Freehold, lost his brother, Chris, 32, in the attack on the World Trade Center. The boys are the sons of former Manalapan Mayor Jim Gray and his wife, Janet, who were also in attendance.

Jay, who said this was his first run, finished the race wearing a jersey Chris wore while he played quarterback for the West Virginia University football team.

"I’m here for Chris, Mr. Driscoll, all of them," he said.

Dan McNichol, 47, of Manalapan, brought his son Brian, 11, to the event. McNichol, who lost a cousin who was a New York City firefighter, said he had been in downtown Manhattan at the time of the attacks and said he "saw things I never thought I’d see and know I’ll never forget."


Manalapan police officer Maggie Freeman crosses the finish line first at the end of the 5K race.Manalapan police officer Maggie Freeman crosses the finish line first at the end of the 5K race.

"As horrible as what that day was, it changed my life forever," he said, adding that before Sept. 11, he was "not one to get involved."

Sept. 11, he said, "turned that around, especially what the people on that plane did," referring to the actions of the passengers and crew on Flight 93.

Law enforcement authorities have indicated they believe that passengers and crew members fought the terrorists who hijacked the plane bound for San Francisco and caused it to crash in Pennsylvania, well short of an intended target in Washington, D.C.

The Rev. John Bambrick of St. Thomas More Roman Catholic Church, Manalapan, quoted biblical scripture that says, "No greater love hath any man that he would lay down his life for another" and told those gathered at the park that "Flight 93 was a destination ... Flight 93 was no greater love."


PHOTOS BY JERRY WOLKOWITZ  The Rev. John Bambrick of St. Thomas More Roman Catholic Church, Manalapan, offers words of comfort and inspiration during opening ceremonies of the Sept. 14 Walk With Joe.PHOTOS BY JERRY WOLKOWITZ The Rev. John Bambrick of St. Thomas More Roman Catholic Church, Manalapan, offers words of comfort and inspiration during opening ceremonies of the Sept. 14 Walk With Joe.

Driscoll’s wife, Maureen, and four children were all at the park for the event, along with grandchildren and extended family members. Joe’s younger brother, John "Jack" Driscoll, 66, came from Little Egg Harbor Township to walk in the park his brother loved so much.

At the end of the event he said, "It was a beautiful thing they did here."

"They" were the members of the Yorktowne Club, a local benevolent society organized more than 35 years ago by Driscoll and the close friends who developed the Walk With Joe to pay tribute to their friend.

Organizer Mike Sullivan said the event had been organized to "celebrate Joe’s life and his heroism." Sullivan said he was "overwhelmed by the turnout of people from everywhere" who had come to pay tribute to his good friend.


Chris, Erica and Rosie Driscoll sing “God Bless America” at Battlefield State Park, Manalapan.Chris, Erica and Rosie Driscoll sing “God Bless America” at Battlefield State Park, Manalapan.

Both Sullivan and organizer Betty Ann O’Malley said they would like to see the Walk With Joe become an annual event.

"This was more than we could have hoped for. You know, I truly believe that even if it had rained, they still all would have been here," Sullivan said.

That sentiment was obviously borne out by the sense of community that was palpable that morning. For just that moment in time, a village had been created where people, some who knew each other and some who didn’t, joined together in mind and spirit in pursuit of the same goal: to aspire to be like and honor someone who showed people that when it really counts, they can be more than they thought possible.

The crowd was full of people of all ages who called out to each other.

Driscoll’s wife and children had been in Shankesville, Pa., where Flight 93 crashed a year ago, on Sept. 11 for ceremonies commemorating the actions of the passengers and crew members.

Driscoll’s son Chris said, "The feeling then was like today; like the whole town was finding a way to give us a hug."

Chris said his family has been comforted by the expressions of sympathy and unity that marks the memorials.

Asked if they are all healing, Chris said he believes the tributes helped his mother, "and for that I am truly grateful."

As for himself, Chris said the day-to-day rage is dissipating and the heavy sadness is going away.

"The one-year anniversary was a real psychological hurdle for all of us," he said.

Chris said while the Driscolls were at Shankesville they were able to scatter some of Joe’s ashes at an old hemlock tree a few yards from where Flight 93 went down in an open field. He said the family’s plan is still to scatter the remaining ashes at either Yosemite or Glacier National Park, where Joe loved to hike.

Chris said what he found remarkable about the Sept. 14 event in Manalapan was that not only were old friends finding each other and reconnecting in the spirit of the day, but strangers were walking and talking on the trail, their common bond having been forged in the legacy of recharged patriotism and reconnection to what really matters given them all by his father and all the passengers and crew on Flight 93.

"We remembered him in a way he would have liked, walking a trail he always walked, while raising money for causes he loved," Chris said.

It was a day in the park Joe Driscoll would have loved.


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