Ohio teens walk to ground zero
The three boys raised $14,000 for the ground-zero memorial.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Exhausted but exhilarated, four Ohio teenagers arrived at the World Trade Center site Friday after a six-week, 650-mile walk during which they raised thousands of dollars for memorials to victims of Sept. 11.
"We feel great, it's a real adrenaline rush. We're very excited about the response we got," Tad Millinger said about the walk with his buddies Brandon Reinhard, Chad Coulter and Dustin Dean. "We're on an emotional high right now."
The boys, all from Rossford, Ohio, left suburban Toledo on July 22. They raised $14,000 to help build the memorial at the trade center site and $3,500 for the memorial planned for those who died on United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pa.
The boys traveled through Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey before reaching New York. People approached them along the route, offering cash, checks and pledges, Millinger said. One man in Pennsylvania gave $4,500 and promised to donate $5,500 more.
The boys plan to keep raising money until Sept. 11, the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
A crowd of more than 100 people cheered the walkers near ground zero Friday.
"No matter how many miles we walk or how much we have endured on this trip, nothing compares to the sacrifice of all the firefighters, police officers and everyday civilians, including the passengers of Flight 93, who risked so much to save others," Millinger told them.
Members of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, the organization raising money to build and operate the Sept. 11 memorial, presented the teens with construction helmets decorated with stars and stripes and catalogs for the foundation's photography exhibit.
"It's a call to action, not only to grass-roots givers, but to corporations and major donors," foundation President Joe Daniels said in a telephone interview. "It shows an example that these kids, by walking 650 miles, are committed to building a permanent memorial at the World Trade Center site. It inspires others who recognize the importance of this to contribute."
Daniels said it was amazing that the teens, who were 12 years old when the twin towers were attacked, "wanted to be part of the healing process."
The close friends, who are now 17, said they were inspired to walk after seeing the movie "United 93."
They walked about 20 miles a day, chaperoned by a parent. They started walking early in the mornings, stopped at scheduled destinations for dinner and slept at hotels. They rested on Sundays.
Talked to firefighters
The teens, who had never been to New York before, and their families also were treated to lunch and a tour of the firehouse closest to ground zero.
Millinger said it was incredible to listen to the firefighters' stories from that fateful day.
"When you actually meet someone who was there, who barely escaped, it's very sad but also very inspiring," he said. "It makes us feel much more accomplished" about raising money for the memorials.
During their journey, the teens stopped in Shanksville to donate 20 percent of what they had raised for the Flight 93 National Memorial. The aircraft was one of four jetliners hijacked during the attacks.
About $132 million in private money is available to build the trade center memorial, whose cost is estimated at above $650 million.
The foundation is expected to raise $300 million. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the trade center site, and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. rebuilding agency are covering the rest.
Construction on the trade center memorial began this year, and officials say it will open in 2009.