03/04/2002 at 01:00 AM EST
When California Gov. Gray Davis announced on Nov. 1 that terrorists might be plotting to blow up the Golden Gate Bridge, real estate broker Jeffrey Orth came to a realization: He had lived in San Francisco for 30 years but never walked the span. "I decided I better get over that bridge before it was gone," says Orth, 52, who is single. He did just that a day later at 8 a.m., proudly waving a new American flag. The response was exhilarating. Horns honked. Headlights flashed. Fists pumped. "I thought, 'That was great,'" he says. "'I'll do it again.'"
And again. And again. Five morning rush hours a week, Orth, now known to locals as Flag Man, sings the national anthem, then strides the 8,981-ft. walkway. "I felt a kinship with him," says commuter Rich Schoenberger, 41, an attorney. "He's a daily reminder of what this country's about." An Air Force brat, Orth served a hitch in the early '70s but marched against the Vietnam War at Ohio State. He'll continue his current demonstrations until the first anniversary of the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.: "I just don't want people to forget what happened on Sept. 11."