It’s never too early in the morning to ride a motorcycle, especially when it’s all to say thank you to firefighters and emergency first responders.
Some 400 cyclists showed up at the Pasco County Government Center on US 41 Saturday to participate in the annual Sept. 11 Gratitude Ride.
The event, organized by local Realtor Dan Turner and his wife Cheryl, is a way these chopper enthusiasts honor members of Pasco County Fire Rescue, and raise money for the Pasco County Fire Benevolent Fund.
“Make no mistake about it, this is a 9/11 event,” Turner told the crowd during a short ceremony. “It has been 12 years. Can you believe it? Unfortunately a lot of people have forgotten all about it, and we just want to make sure everybody remembers.”
The Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks killed 412 emergency workers in New York City alone, all of them trying to rescue people from the World Trade Center after each tower was struck by a commercial jetliner.
But it’s not just during terrorist attacks they put their lives on the line. This year alone, 79 firefighters have lost their lives in the line of duty, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Between 1977 and 2011, there have been 4,325 on-duty firefighter fatalities — an average of 127 each year.
The Benevolent Fund raises money not for equipment or vehicles, but instead to help members of the Pasco County Fire Rescue when they may need a little financial assistance.
“They are the ones that always say it’s just a job, but we all know they run into danger as we are running away from it,” Turner told The Laker/Lutz News last month.
“As we reflect back on that horrible day back in September 2001, we remember all the public safety personnel (who) were affected,” said Pasco County Fire Chief Scott Cassin. “They were doing everything they do every day: saving lives and saving property.”
Pasco County Choppers, which hosted the event, said nearly $4,900 was raised for the local benevolent fund, more than double what was raised last year. Even winners of the poker run, a fun event to encourage motorcyclists to visit multiple locations, gave a little back.
“Winners of the poker run reverted nearly all of the money they won back to the cause,” Turner said in an email after the event. “Once again (it shows) that the biker community is there for those that lay their lives on the line for us, every single day of the year.”