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Macedonia — A contingent of around 30 bikers, including eight police motorcycle escorts, met for breakfast at Bob Evans in Macedonia Aug. 18 before departing on their final memorial ride to commemorate the victims of September 11, 2011.
Known as The America’s 911 Ride, the event draws hundreds of motorcyclists from around the country to the three attack sites: The Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the World Trade Center in New York City.
Organized by America’s 911 Foundation Inc., the event is also a fundraiser for the non-profit’s scholarship fund.
Ohio Coordinator Tom Rovniak, a Highland Heights police officer, was joined at the restaurant by motorcycle officers from Cleveland, Mayfield Heights and Rocky River serving on their own time and with their departments’ permission to use their duty machines.
Rovniak said he is sad to see the ride is ending, but added it’s an honor to keep the memory of the thousands of attack victims alive.
“It’s a great cause and a lot of volunteers put in a lot of effort to keep this ride successful,” he said.
According to the America’s 911 Foundation website, 1,400 riders from across the country signed up to participate this final year.
Riders were scheduled to gather at the end of the day Aug. 18 in Somerset, Pa., and visit the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville.
On Aug. 19, the ride was scheduled to proceed to Arlington, Va. — a distance of just over 200 miles. There, riders will visit the Pentagon Memorial and other area sites, including the nation’s capital.
On Aug. 20, the ride was scheduled to proceed about 260 miles to New York City.
The procession to the World Trade Center was set to begin at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 21.
Al Kutcher, of Oberlin, said this is his third year on the ride with his wife, Shin Im.
“I’m sorry it’s ending,” he said. “This is a very, very well organized event. They spend over a year putting this together.”
He said the riders meet in multiple states to pick up their police escorts, who lead the way on each leg of the ride.
“They close four-lane highways, they close the Holland Tunnel,” he said. “A lot of police are very proud to do this.”
Cleveland Patrolman Kevin Healey said he and a couple other fellow officers have participated in the ride since its inception in 2002.
“It’s a good ride for a legitimate reason,” he said, adding many of the police who participate remember being on duty when the attacks took place.
“We were all working that day,” he said.
For the memorial ride, he said area police work with law enforcement all the way through Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and New York.
Trish Stillman, a server at the Bob Evans, said she has known some of the riders for quite some time, having worked at the restaurant for nearly 15 years. She was surprised to learn this is the last ride.
“I think what they’re doing is amazing,” she said. “For them to honor the memory all these years is unreal.”
Eric Marotta: 330-541-9433