BOISE (Idaho Statesman) – Escorted by a Boise Fire Department firetruck, 10 cyclists rolled down Shoreline Drive into the parking lot of the Idaho Fallen Firefighters Memorial Park on Saturday. The truck’s lights flashed and its siren blared as a few spectators whooped.
The group, called Bay2Brooklyn 2021, is partway through a journey of several thousand miles across the United States in honor of firefighters who lost their lives in the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Their ride began in Santa Clara, California, on Aug. 1, when 10 current and former firefighters or military veterans set off on a 40-day trip that will take them all the way to New York City.
Having already made stops in San Francisco and Eugene, Oregon, the group rode from Vale to Boise on Saturday, a 72-mile journey. At the Memorial Park, they met with members of the Boise Fire Department and the Boise Police Department.
“It’s so inspiring to ride our bikes across the county and just drop in from town to town, firehouse to firehouse, community to community, and just bring them with us all the way across the United States,” David Lombardo, an Air Force veteran and firefighter with the city of Santa Clara Fire Department who is one of the leaders of this summer’s ride, told the Idaho Statesman.
At each stop, the group reads a few names from the list of 343 members of the New York City Fire Department who were killed on 9/11.
Lombardo and another firefighter, Darrell Sales, completed a similar ride in 2011 for the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and he said he met people all over the country who had been personally affected by the attacks. A support trailer that traveled with the group had a silhouette on its side with all 343 names on it, which Lombardo said often did not go unnoticed.
“I can’t tell you how many times we were at a rest stop or pulled into a town somewhere … and there’s somebody sitting looking at the trailer and looking for a name,” he said. “There were a lot of emotional moments and a lot of amazing connections.”
The riders have a similar trailer this year, and the group is collecting donations to benefit the Gary Sinise Foundation, which provides emergency equipment for fire departments and paramedics and operates programs for injured first responders and veterans across the country.
The riders plan to be in New York on Sept. 9, and to visit the World Trade Center site, in Lower Manhattan, on Sept. 11.
“If we stay on track, we’ll get there on Sept. 9,” Lombardo said. “Then we’ll be able to be there and just memorialize all those (people) on that sacred day.”
On Saturday, the group was escorted through the Treasure Valley by fire departments in Middleton, Star and Eagle before being handed off to BFD.
The memorial park where they stopped, in the West End, opened in 2008 and honors local firefighters who have died in the line of duty since the 1800s. A 9/11 memorial, which includes a 10-foot beam from one of the fallen World Trade Center buildings, opened at the location in 2014, according to the city’s website.
BFD hosted the group overnight at Station 18 on Saturday, where they also had dinner and breakfast Sunday morning, according to Tom Moore, a battalion chief.
Moore told the Statesman that BFD heard about the ride a few weeks ago and decided to “help them out.”
“I hope that when people see (the cyclists) riding cross country for the cause that they just kind of reflect back and think about the people that were affected (by the attacks) and the people that are still affected to this day,” Moore said.
In the years since the buildings collapsed, many more firefighters who responded have died from related illnesses.
Moore, who was with BFD on 9/11, said he thinks about the mindset of the firefighters who worked that day.
“What’s going through these guys’ heads?” he said. “Everybody’s evacuating the building, and they’re going up. Even after the first tower fell, the guys continued to go into the second tower.”
City Council Member Jimmy Hallyburton, who is also the executive director of the Boise Bicycle Project, a nonprofit bike shop, came to the event on Saturday to offer bicycle tune-ups to the riders.
“When you’re out there riding around, there’s always something that could go wrong,” Hallyburton told the Statesman as he was on his way to his shop to replace a broken spoke, derailleur and a punctured tire.
“This is just great that they’re honoring all these folks by riding,” he said, adding that he likes to support groups that have decided to “put their body through pain to raise awareness.”
“They’re riding a long way,” he said.
The next stop? A 100-mile journey to Fairfield on Sunday, which is nearly halfway between Boise and Arco. The group is planning to arrive in Idaho Falls on Aug. 10, according to their website, and go on to Jackson the following day.