70-year-old follows U.S. 30 to 9/11 crash sites
PLYMOUTH — Many adults are advised to regularly walk in order to stay active. Retired Chicago police officer Phil Szpicki (pronounced spy-key), at 70 years old, recently embarked on a journey that requires him to walk more than 900 miles — all along U.S. Highway 30.
“Being able to do this at my age is a gift from God,” said Phil Szpicki, covered in sweat and grime from the road.
Szpicki, who resides in Loves Park, Ill, spent the night in Plymouth Monday before setting off again on his journey.
Szpicki plans to walk to all three 9/11 crash sites — Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and New York City — to raise money for wounded soldiers.
The idea to do this first came to him while watching television coverage of wounded U.S. soldiers two years ago.
“I had an idea in my head that I couldn’t shake, kind of like when you get a song stuck in your head,” said Szpicki. “When the thought gelled, the idea was to go to the three crash sites.”
Szpicki’s conviction came in part because he felt he needed to do something in payment for the freedom he receives living in the United States.
“I did not have the honor to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States. Freedom isn’t free, so I’m making my payment,” said Szpicki. “It sounds corny, but that’s how it is.”
Grueling journey notwithstanding, Szpicki said that he doesn’t like to talk much about himself.
“The people that really should be interviewed are the people I’m doing this for,” said Szpicki. “I’m just taking a walk. Some of these (soldiers) will never walk again.”
Szpicki’s goal is to walk 20 miles each day, and he estimates he has covered about 140 miles since he began walking from Loves Park Aug. 28. He carries a 12 pound pack with minimal supplies, while a larger pack is shuttled from town to town by his supporters.
Szpicki’s main supporters are American Legion posts, whom he contacts for lodging and assistance in each of his stops.
“I don’t have the words to describe the incredible way I’ve been treated (along the way),” said Szpicki.
One hundred percent of the money donated through his walk goes to the Wounded Warriors Project. A link to donate can be found on Szpicki’s website, www.911vetswalk.com. Szpicki said that though people have tried to hand him cash before, he can only accept donations through the link on the website.
More information about Szpicki’s journey, as well as maps and photos of his route, can also be found on his website.