Remembering 9-11 In My Own Words
By Bob Delaney
We learn to ride a bicycle early in life through the patience and guidance by those who love us.
It was September 11, 2011; the ten-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our country and a bicycle ride honoring the riders’ loved ones was about to start.
350 men and women are wearing red, white and blue cyclist uniforms with stars and stripes underlining the feeling of patriotism felt by all. This group visited Ground Zero the day before and was now gathered in the parking lot of the Sheraton Hotel in East Rutherford New Jersey to start riding the very minute the first plane hit the Tower.
Announcements and introductions were made. New Jersey State Police Sgt. Tom Cavallo , wearing his dress uniform proudly sings the National Anthem as he stands atop a truck serving as the dais. The riders joined in singing - emotions were obvious.
The riders and their supporters begin the 540 mile bicycle ride as they head to Liberty State Park. This Ride 2 Recovery event is a result of John Wordin’s vision and is known as the 9-11 Challenge.
John Wordin founded Ride 2 Recovery as a way of helping Wounded Warriors who were dealing with visible and invisible wounds as they came home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Like most great leaders, John sees beyond the present and he created, what I term, a 21st Century Therapy for those suffering from trauma. John and his R2R staff have grown and today there are numerous national and international “challenges”.
The event would touch all three attack sites – Ground Zero to Shanksville to the Pentagon over 8 days. The 9-11 Challenge included veterans using hand cycles, recumbents and traditional rode bikes, riders who were injured on 9-11, joined the military as a result of 9-11 attacks or were first responders, as well as family members and supporters.
My wife, Billie, and I were part of the historic ride and we had a front row seat as we watched Great Americans travelling on bicycles being cared for by other Great Americans along the way. Each night we stayed at a local hotel and shared a group dinner, followed by a speaker or entertainment. I presented a Post Traumatic Stress education & awareness message on the first night and I was overwhelmed by a standing ovation from the R2R Troops.( Both my books were donated by the Publishers. We had book signing time after each day’s rides and all received a copy of Covert and Surviving the Shadows.** Note—we may want to cover this under a photo and remove from the article).
I contacted former NBA great and all around good guy, Charles Barkley and he joined the ride from Philadelphia to Valley Forge. He provided a ‘lift’ to the ride, yet it seemed to be the other way around when Charles said –“the riders inspired me and raised me up.”
We stopped at the Buck’s County, Pa. 9-11 Garden of Reflection Memorial. We were greeted there by Ellen Saracini. Her husband, Victor, was the pilot of United Airlines flight 175 that crashed into the south tower. We met Peggy and Dave Beamer , parents of Todd who is known for the famous “ Let’s Roll “ charge as the brave passengers on United Flight 93 took back the plane from the terrorists and saved countless lives by their actions.
Dave Beamer’s words about his son and our world during a flag ceremony at the Shanksville Memorial were powerful. We met Debra Burlingame, her brother Charles “Chick” Burlingame, was the pilot of American Airline Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon. She gave us a better understanding of the kind, generous man she loved.
We met Valerie Gambino who was riding alongside us every day – her brother Tommy, a New York City Firefighter died in the Towers helping others. She wore his badge that was recovered from the “pile” at Ground Zero.
We met U.S. Marine Adam Mc Cann and his service dog Holt. Adam was injured by multiple mortar blasts and suffered Traumatic Brain Injury. This man and his companion dog do more in one day than most in a week.
We met Nathan Hunt. Nate lost both legs in Iraq. We were riding to dinner together after a day of bicycling and as we got off the bus, Nate pumped out 20 push-ups; he does them upside down balancing his body in air while moving in piston like rhythm up and down. He is a Wounded Warrior who has amazing physical strength and an inner drive to match.
We stopped at VFW, American Legion halls and community centers as we traveled and were greeted with more food, hugs and love than could be imagined.
So many stories of amazing men and women, so many that we cannot cover all in one article. The arrival at the Pentagon was the last stop on the ride, however not the end of the journey. There is no finish line to the 9-11 stories.
We can never forget Sept. 11,2001 and the impact to all – the victims and their families, those who answered an inner call to serve as a result , the cops , firefighters , first responders , our entire world.
On this the 11th Anniversary take time to honor, remember and share 9-11 with each other and the next generations.
" I often hear ' we support the Troops' and while the bar Has been moved from the Viet-nam era , we need to do more than just say it, there must be a call to action by all. No longer can we only provide support of words we need to show support by 'doing' for our military. Find someway to support with your time , your talents and your dollars the men and women who SERVE . They are the largest minority - 1.1 % of the U.S. population serves in the military and of that percentage , 90% have direct family lineage to prior service. The freedoms we enjoy are being provided by these families.
While we hear of the great financial debt we have on a daily basis , we should not forget the national debt we have to the men and women - and their families - who SERVE."