LOS ANGELES – Runners carried an American flag to a beach Sunday to symbolically complete the cross-country flights of the jetliners that were hijacked and destroyed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"This is the symbolic arrival of Flight 11," said Edward Herrera of Bakersfield, whose sister-in-law Betty Ong was a flight attendant on the plane. "It's a spiritual arrival of those people here in Los Angeles."
Herrera was among those who walked the final mile of the trip through light mist to Dockweiler State Beach, adjacent to Los Angeles International Airport. The journey ended exactly two months after the attacks.
The participants bore an American flag that was recently returned from Iraq, where a pilot with an Air National Guard fighter wing carried it in the cockpit of his F-16. The journey culminated in an oceanside ceremony where flags from all 50 states were also displayed.
An estimated 4,000 runners participated in the trip that began a month ago in Boston. They took turns carrying the flag around the clock through cities including New York, Washington, Atlanta, Dallas and Phoenix before they arrived in Los Angeles.
Many of the runners were employees of American and United Airlines, or friends and relatives of crew members who died in the attacks.
The run retraced the flights of the two flights from Boston to Los Angeles, but was meant to honor all of the aircraft crews and passengers, said Todd Wissing, a first officer with American Airlines who helped organize the run.
American Flight 11 and United Flight 175 took off from Boston's Logan International Airport bound for Los Angeles before they crashed into the World Trade Center.
American Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon, left Washington's Dulles International Airport for Los Angeles. United Airlines Flight 93 was going from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco. It crashed near Pittsburgh.
The run was meant to show resolve and support for victims and relatives, and to raise money for attack-related charities.
"This is not a memorial service. This is a message to the country that we have been challenged but we will persevere," said Wissing, who carried the flag 140 miles during its voyage west.
Kay Collman of Yorkville, Ill., walked the final yards. Her son Jeff Collman was a flight attendant on Flight 11.
"It just feels wonderful to be walking this mile in tribute to him," Collman said.