Chicago firefighter Tom Maloney rushed to Ground Zero to aid the New York Fire Department's efforts on September 11, 2001. A year later, Maloney, who spent 12 days working in New York in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, felt the need for some outlet to cope with the memories of the experience that still haunted him.
“It was an emotional experience being there," he told the Chicago Sun-Times. "The things I did. The things I experienced. The shock I felt with the rest of the country. I saw things firsthand. I met guys, firemen, big, tall, burly guys who just cried their eyes out. It’s hard for me to explain what it was like to work there with them New York guys ... It’s like guys who fight in battle together. I can still see their faces.”
Knowing that many Chicago firefighters who'd shared his experience also shared his passion for motorcycles, he started an annual pilgrimage from U.S. Cellular field to Manhattan, with stops along the way at the Pentagon and the site where Flight 93 went down in Pennsylvania, the Sun-Times reports.
Mounted on one rider's motorcycle is a picture of fallen New York City firefighter Thomas Kelly. Nancy Hudson told WGN it helps the riders focus on the experiences of the fallen heroes they're riding for. "They were going up," she says, "when everyone was coming down.
For the tenth anniversary ride Tuesday, 190 bikers took off from at 35th and Shields, revving their engines to life at 9:11 a.m., as they have every year since 2001, according to ABC. Hundreds more are expected to join along the way.
Maloney told the Sun-Times he meets the landmark ride with surprise, both at the size of the event, which has grown to include almost 1,000 riders, and at the passage of time this anniversary marks.
“It’s a proud feeling going back there. I never thought I’d be doing it every year,” he told the paper. “Not for 10 years. No way.”
Watch Lt. Tom Maloney discuss the tenth annual bike ride from Chicago to New York here:
Flickr photo by Peachy Weasel.