Despite the threat of rain, more than 400 motorcycle riders trekked around Pasco County last Saturday visiting local fire stations to thank first-responders for the live-saving job they do every day.
It was part of the Pasco County Choppers 2013 9/11 Gratitude Ride and Poker Run, which serves two purposes every year: remembering the lives lost on that tragic day 12 years ago and thanking and raising money for Pasco County Fire Rescue’s benevolent fund.
That money is used to help families of local emergency service personnel if they fall onto hard times.
“All the money that you help raise today does not go to buying any equipment whatsoever,” said ride organizer Dan Turner told the crowd of riders at the opening ceremony that morning. “It goes to the men and women of Pasco County Fire Rescue, no matter how they need it.”
The ceremony started at 9:45 a.m. with a short speech to the leather vest-clad crowd and included the presentation of the American flag by the Fire Rescue Honor Guard, a moment of silent for the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001, and Taps played on the trumpet.
“This is a 9/11-themed event and we wanted to do something on a local level to acknowledge our local emergency services right here in our backyard,” Turner said. “A lot of lives were lost on 9/11, not only citizens but law enforcement and all kinds of emergency services.”
“It’s been 12 years-can you believe it?” Turner asked, referring to the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and the crash in Pennsylvania of the fourth hijacked airliner. “Unfortunately, a lot of us, a lot of people, have forgotten all about it. Cheryl and I wanted to make sure everyone remembers. Never forget. “
Pasco Fire Rescue Chief Scott Cassin also stepped in to say a few words.
“I want to express our gratitude to what you folks are doing here today. We remember all the public safety personnel we lost that day just doing their jobs, what they do every day, saving lives and property.”
After the ceremony, hundreds of motorcycles poured out onto Land O’ Lakes Boulevard from the Pasco County Government Center to head to the first of three stops at Pasco Fire Rescue firehouses, Station 15, on Trinity Boulevard.
The bikes overwhelmed the station’s small parking lot and hundreds of riders milled about the station seeking out fire rescue personnel to shake hands with, hug and thank.
“Such a mixed variety of people showed up today and everyone is so kind,” said one rider, Tammy Gardner of Temple Terrace. “It’s all about remembering how tragic 9/11 was but these people put their lives on the line every day.”
The ride itself was free but riders could pay $10 to participate in the poker run for a chance at a prize at the end of the event. Organizers also sold 9/11 Gratitude Run T-shirts and raffle tickets for the big party at Quail Hollow Country Club in Wesley Chapel at the end of the ride.
Other than Trinity, the motorcycle procession stopped at Pasco Fire Rescue Station 14 on River Ridge Boulevard in New Port Richey and the training center, Station 20, on Little Ranch Road in Brooksville.
Last year, about $2,000 was raised for the Fire Rescue benevolent fund. Turner said the numbers were down from pervious years because of rain. This year, despite it being overcast, the ride raised $5,500.