This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. To honor the first responders who lost their lives that day, a group of firefighters is preparing for a bike ride that will take them from the San Francisco Bay Area to the Brooklyn Bridge and Ground Zero in New York.
The 3,800-mile bike ride began as an idea shared between Darrell Sales, lead organizer for Bay to Brooklyn, and his son. A group of motorcyclists planned to ride to New York in 2011 for the 10th anniversary of 9/11. However, Sales’s son didn’t own a motorcycle.
“[My son] said, ‘Well, I’ll just ride my bicycle.’ And I said, ‘That’s kind of a crazy idea, but—’ So it spawned initial planning to see if this was actually possible. It was going to be a father-son ride,” Sales told NTD News.
Sales said that his son was unable to participate at the start of the 2011 ride, so Sales rode with a coworker.
“The significance was to really remember what happened at that time, 10 years ago, and now we’re looking back at 20 years ago and remembering not just the firefighters and their families that suffered the tragedy, but also the military and their families who now continue to strive, to fight for what’s right and what’s good,” Sales said.
This year, the team has expanded to 10 cyclists, all of whom are either current or retired firefighters or military veterans. The cyclists said they each have their own reasons for riding, but the underlying drive is to honor those who lost their lives serving the country.
Gary Wiley, U.S. Navy veteran, told NTD News: “Since that time [9/11] and the War on Terror, we’ve lost over 7,000 men and women who are trying to prevent this from happening again. I don’t want them to be forgotten. So I’m riding for their memory, as well as the memory of all those that perished on that day.”
Wiley said he looks forward to the fellowship and friendship of the ride and to meeting with local communities. He wants to honor those who serve the country and let them know that their service is remembered.
For the cyclists, the ride is a time for remembrance, reflection, healing, and building the community.
David Lombardo, Air Force veteran, firefighter, and EMT with the Santa Clara Fire Department, rode in 2011 and will be riding again this year. Looking back on the 2011 ride, he described the moment when the team arrived at the Brooklyn Bridge as “somber, reflective, tearful, joyful.”
He told NTD News that they met up with other bikers and motorcyclists who did similar rides across the country to honor the individuals lost in 9/11.
Lombardo shared that the most memorable part of the previous ride was hearing the personal stories of the local townspeople he met during the ride.
“It’s about building the community from coast to coast. Those that sacrificed on 9/11 and those that have sacrificed ever since have been serving our community and that heart for community. So I think the greatest way that we can honor them and memorialize them is building relationship[s] from coast to coast and building that community in their memory,” Lombardo said.
The team will bike approximately 100 miles per day, stopping in towns and cities along the way to meet with local communities. A trailer with the names of all the firefighters who lost their lives in 9/11 will accompany the riders.
Sales said that during the 2011 ride, one of its most memorable moments happened in Jackson, Wyoming.
“One of the workers for the city of Jackson Hole had walked up to the trailer, and he started looking for names. He found one of his friends on the trailer,” he said. “So what we do now is we carry all those names on this trailer, and we have T-shirts with names on the back of the T-shirt, so we can carry them with us every day that we ride.”
According to a memorial report by the New York State Intelligence Center (pdf), 71 law enforcement officers, 343 members of the New York City Fire Department, and more than 2,800 civilians were killed at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
On Aug. 1, the firefighters will set out from the Santa Clara fire station in California. They plan to arrive in New York on Sept. 9, in time to attend the memorial events.