So… what did you do last Thursday? Display your flag (hopefully the stars and stripes) at your home? Watch endless hours of documentary features of the tragic events of that day? Observe a moment or two of silence during the day in respect of those lost? Attend a memorial service? Talk about the events to friends and family? Spend quality time with loved ones? Excellent! Once again, you’ve set the example for others to follow. Me? I hung out with 500 friends and waved at all the people watching us. Yeah… it was another one of them motorcycle things.
We gathered at Station 231 and were surprised to see a much bigger participation from our local group than last year. Wives, girlfriends, friends of friends and two individuals that felt strongly enough to ride that one rented a bike (at about $110 a day) and one borrowed a bike from a captain that had to work. Both agreed at the end of the day that it was worth the effort. We cruised down to Elsinore and picked up two more riders from that area and then headed out on the Ortega Highway to Ladera Ranch for a lunch time BBQ. We were a total of 20 bikes including a crotch rocket with a rider that refused to use both wheels on the ground. Ah, youth….
After an outstanding lunch we made our way to Cook’s Corner in El Toro to meet up with several hundred other riders from around the Southland. I noticed a couple of bikes from Oregon and Nevada. Channels 2 and 7 news vans were there as well as a couple ofl older fire engines as escort. To explain further – Gary Biggerstaff is an Engineer from Long Beach FD and he started this little event about 4 or 5 years ago to commemorate the date and give back something for his extended FD family to simply “… remember and never forget”. It has grown exponentially ever since. This is my 3rd time participating and it just gets better every year. From Cook’s Corner the procession makes it’s way to PCH and follows the coast to Joe’s Crab Shack in Long Beach for a short break. The entire route is dotted here and there with on-duty fire engines and ladder trucks from the local agencies – some with crews dressed in Class A uniforms standing at attention and saluting. Police and Lifeguard units are waving as well. Citizens on the street and in their cars are waving and honking their horns. Business owners come out of their shops to see what the noise is all about and wave enthusiastically. Flags are held high and people seem to really get into the spirit, it seems, even more every year.
After a short break at Joe’s, we re-assemble and cruise for another 15 minutes to Gary’s house in Belmont Shore – a small street filled with bungalow style houses. TV helicopters are filming, news reporters are taking pictures and crowds are getting bigger as we drive down Bennett Ave. The bikes park along a 3 block section of the street and crowd around in front of Gary’s house that is marked with 343 small white crosses with the names and company assignments of the fallen brothers from FDNY. There are numerous antique pumpers in the driveways and parked on the street. Gary has a microphone set up on his front stoop and the guests are treated to patriotic songs, the Pledge of Allegiance, poems, thoughtful words from FDNY firefighters and the Mayor of Long Beach, and a final few words from Gary thanking everyone who participated and ending with a “see ya next year”.
If you haven’t been a part of this flag-waving, patriotic, lump-in-your-throat sort of Americana then you are truly missing out on an opportunity to connect with 9-11-01 on a visceral level. The mood and the emotions are a part of the very fabric of why we are Americans. The ability to ride a motorcycle on such a beautiful afternoon and to be part of something wholly larger than that infamous day while sharing it with your brothers and sisters is something that should be mandatory at least once in your life. September 11th, 2009 – you are hereby requested to attend a motorcycle ride (or come along in your car – all are welcome) with us to Gary’s house in Long Beach. He invited us. We shouldn’t let him down. Tell ya what – I’ll remind you next year. No worries.
San Bernardino City Fire Department
Wind & Fire MC, #73