Rochester Firefighter Cycles 1,700 Miles for Fallen Responders
From Naples, Florida to New York City, 40 bicyclists took on more than 1,600 miles and climbed over 38,000 feet of elevation to honor fallen first responders and their families. One of those riders was a Rochester firefighter by the name of Kevin Richard.
Richard has been fighting blazes for the Rochester Fire Department for the past 27 years and has been wanting to join the ride that happens once every 10 years for quite some time. This was the year he was going to saddle up and after 103 hours of riding time, Richard and his team called the Brotherhood Ride made their way to Ground Zero, just in time for the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.
In 2018, one of the members, Andy Weigel, started a chapter in southern new England in which Richard took the opportunity to meet up with a good friend, Jeff Morse, who was his training officer back in 1994.
On the 20th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Centers, 40 bicyclists completed a task few have been able to achieve. In doing so, their mission is not only to bike up the Eastern seaboard but to provide families who have lost a first responder to the terrorist attack with financial help and emotional support. This was the motivation that pushed Richard up the coastline with his fellow teammates.
The Underlying Motivation to Push Through the Pain
"Meeting with the families kept my drive going," Richard said. "Once you meet with one family who suffered a line of duty death, you instantly connect with them. They're doing the same jobs we do, wearing the same uniform, the same badge, and overall doing the same job. It really was life-changing for me.
It was extremely emotional and you get that sense of 'that could have been me or my family, or someone close to me, or even someone from my department. When you're digging down and you want to quit and stop, you're in your own head and out of breath, you look past it. I keep reminders on my bike from the families I met along the way and there are names (of the fallen) on the back of the shirts as well to remind people while we're riding and what we're rising for. That was my motivation and that was the why. It becomes your self-motivating factor."
A Vigorous Journey Full of Twists, Turns, and Hills
"After we left Naples, it took us five days to cut through Florida to get to Jacksonville," Richard said. "The path we took was a zig-zag, but we stayed closer to the water to cut down on the hills. It was still 38,000 feet of elevation throughout the trip, and seven days in, from North Carolina to Virginia, we climbed a majority of the elevated 38,000 feet."
Reaching the Ground Zero Finish Line and Passing Along the Message
"The entire ride was emotional and physical," Richard said. "When we arrived on the 10th in Staten Island, we knew that New York City was going to be more of a frosting on the cake, so even though we still had one more day, we got off our bikes and hugged and high-fived, and celebrated, tears flowing down our faces. We're not there for us, it was an accomplishment to make sure the message was made; we're just peddling the bike. We're not the heroes or the martyrs, we just want people to know that we will never forget the family or devastation left behind."
Meet the Team That Rolled 40 Deep and 40 Strong
"Out of the 40 of us, there were a couple of crashes and casualties," Richard said. "One person even went to the hospital. It was never easy, and it challenged us on our own level, but the satisfaction of completing was worth it all. The oldest person was 69 years old by the name of Steve McCarthy, and he hung right in there and was quite the mentor. A majority of the riders were from Florida, some from New York, and some, like myself, were from Massachusetts."
Ride, Lodge, Eat, Sleep, Repeat
"On August 21, 40 riders took the open road for 22 days," Richard said. "The Elks Lodge and Association hosted, lodged, and fed (set up sleeping bags on the floor) so that more money will go to the families, rather than paying for hotels and the food was absolutely delicious and bountiful. The cooks put the same amount of work into their cooking as we did on our travels. It was incredible."
In the End, This Is What It’s All About
"It was strange when we were riding in these small towns and stopping at gas stations real quick, I can't even tell you how many times people recognized us, and told us their stories of how they had family and friends who perished in the towers," Richard said. "One lady even pulled her car over and had her mother speak to us who lost a family member in the attack. Here we are, just doing our mission, and we were constantly connected with families who had their stories to share. That, in a nutshell, is what it's all about."