By Rick Pfeiffer
NIAGARA FALLS — They roared off from the Falls on Friday, not sure what they would see two days later.
When Falls Firefighters Joe Pedulla and Mark Lanoye rode into New York City on Sunday, they were awed and overwhelmed.
“It was very emotional,” Pedulla said. “As we came down (Interstate) 87, the state police had blocked the highway and escorted us into (Manhattan). There were American flags hanging from the (highway) overpasses and people were pulled over on the side of the road. Seeing those people there, waving flags and applauding, it was overwhelming.”
Pedulla and Lanoye were two of an estimated 3,000 firefighters, who rode their motorcycles from across the U.S. and Canada, to participate in a 9/11 day of remembrance at the New York State Firefighters Memorial on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
The ride is an annual event, supported by the International Association of Firefighters. Organizers thought they’d get maybe 1,500 riders this year.
But the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks inspired record-breaking numbers.
“We got to Newberg, N.Y. (the gathering spot for the start of the rally) around 5 p.m. Friday and the whole (town) was filled with bikes,” Pedulla said. “It was overwhelming to see that number of bikes. We knew this would be a ride to remember.”
Pedulla and Lanoye had ridden to Newberg with two Toronto firefighters, so they suspected they’d find others there who had traveled a long way to take part in the rally. They encountered firefighters from as far away as Alaska and Washington state.
“It was amazing how far they traveled,” Pedulla said. “But we knew why they came, to honor our brothers and sisters who died that day. This is a brotherhood.”
On Sunday morning, the motorcycle riders roared out of Newberg, heading south toward New York City, The line of bikes stretched for miles.
They rode down Interstate 87, on to Riverside Drive and north to 100th Street where the Firefighters Memorial sits. A long brass mural, laid into a brick wall. It captures images of firefighters at work and features the flaming twin towers at one end.
Inscribed on the mural are the phrases: “Dedicated To Those Who Fell And Those Who Carry On” and “May We Never Forget.”
“I’d never been there before,” Pedulla said. “I thought of the reason why It was built. You relive that whole day (9/11) all over again.”
The Falls firefighters said the service at the memorial was simply and dignified, with more than a few tears shed.
“Ten years ago changed everything,” Pedulla said. “It changed the way we do our jobs, you remember (9/11) in everything you do.”
Pedulla said he and Lanoye did not try to go down to ground zero for the memorial events there. He said he knew there would be plenty of fellow firefighters there to represent their fallen comrades.
“A trip to (ground zero), that will be for another day and time,” Pedulla said. “Maybe I’ll go back when the new buildings are done. I’d like to see that.”
original article located here: http://niagara-gazette.com/local/x1078458998/Falls-firefighters-ride-to-remember-9-11