By Samantha L. Quigley
WASHINGTON, Aug. 17, 2006 – America's 9/11 Foundation is getting ready to hit the road again with its annual America's 9/11 Ride in support of the nation's first responders, the foundation's promotions manager and media contact said. "This is the fifth anniversary of the (Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks), but it is actually our 6th ride," Roger Flick said of the two-day event that begins tomorrow. "The first (ride) left eight weeks after the attacks from in front of the White House, and we left on Veterans Day."
The motorcycle rides started because America's 9/11 Foundation, Inc. founders, Ted Sjurseth and his wife, Lisa, were looking to help boost New York City's devastated economy, Flick said. During their brief stay at the conclusion of the first ride, the 250 participants managed to infuse $50,000 into New York City's economy, according to the foundation's Web site. Now the ride always takes place the third week in August. This allows the foundation, a Virginia-based nonprofit, to avoid conflict with the many observances in New York that take place closer to the actual anniversary of the attacks, Flick said.
While that first ride left with about 250 bikes, including two ridden by former Sen. Ben Campbell of Colorado, and Vice Adm. Michael Cowen, former surgeon general of the Navy, about 700 bikes are registered this year, Flick said. Tomorrow morning, 83 uniformed motorcycle officers will escort the riders along their route beginning in Somerset, Pa., he said. The ride will visit all three Sept. 11 crash sites.
"We're starting ... where Flight 93 went down," Flick said. "Then we go to the Pentagon (and) ride past the crash site." The ride concludes Aug. 19 at about 5 p.m. in New York with a ceremony thanking everyone who participated in the ride. During the ceremony, a motorcycle will be raffled to one of the law enforcement departments represented by one of the uniformed officers, Flick said.
Also part of that ceremony is the raffling of a custom "chopper." This is the third such raffle that will benefit the foundation's college scholarship fund. "Our foundation supports fire, police and EMS personnel," he said. "The proceeds that we get from the raffled bikes and some of the other things that we do go toward our college scholarship fund."
The foundation's scholarship fund is available to family members of active or disabled first-responders, Flick said. "This year, we'll be giving away nine $2,000 scholarships," he said. This year's chopper incorporates symbols that represent different elements of the three sites of the terrorist attacks, Flick said. For example, the oil tank is in the shape of the Pentagon, and embedded in the rear fender is a keystone insignia, representing Pennsylvania. The twin towers are represented on the front fender. The group will wrap up the weekend trip with a visit to Ground Zero early Aug. 20, according to the foundation's Web site.