Enduring training each day on high speed bicycles, 40 firefighters and public emergency personnel from across the United States will trek from North Naples Fire District to Station 10 in New York City in memory of emergency responders who perished during the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Yet what began as an annual ride four years ago, now commemorating the 10th year of the attacks, will be different for these 40 riders this year, as one cyclist based in Louisiana lost his life while training to be a part of the historic fundraising and awareness effort.
“Back in April, Rob Moorhead contacted us and said he wanted to join us for the ride. While he was a training, a car veered into him, and he was killed,” Candy Morse said of James “Rob” Robinson Moorhead, who wanted to remember the victims of 9/11 by joining in on the Brotherhood Ride, which starts on August 20 and ends Sept. 11 in New York City.
Moorhead served as an emergency medical service pilot for Metro Aviation, an air ambulance company. He left behind his son and three daughters and his wife of 25 years.
To honor Moorhead’s memory, Brotherhood Ride Founder and North Naples Firefighter Jeff Morse will be holding onto some of Moorhead’s ashes in one of his panniers, as the 40 bicyclists travel more than 1,600 miles to honor fallen firefighters and emergency personnel.
“We are not sure how the ashes will be scattered yet, but I’ll discuss it more with his wife,” explained Jeff Morse. “We’re also going to bring his helmet from his days of flying, too.”
In reflecting on the primary goals of the ride, Jeff Morse stated it is to raise awareness and remind people of what happened on 9/11.
“The more and more time that goes by, the more that people seem to forget what happened,” he said. “We want to remind people not only of the families, but their coworkers, we don’t forget the sacrifices they made, and their families are making to this day, without their loved ones.”
There will be additional members of public safety agencies added this year as well.
“This year, we’re riding for the New York Port Authority Police, New York City Police, New York City Fire Department, and private EMS workers, who were there, working, and were killed. There were actually 411 responders,” Jeff Morse said.
And even after 10 years, there are supporters of the Brotherhood Ride who remember 9/11 like it was yesterday. Skip Heffelfinger recalls the moment vividly, as he served as a retired police officer in New Jersey, and witnessed the towers fall firsthand, along with members of his company. He recently retired to Marco Island, and tears up when he recollects on the attacks.
“I was about 11 miles from the towers when they fell. I was an officer for 32 years, and I witnessed the whole thing. We had retired firefighters, and we went there to help, and we were the first group to be turned away,” Heffelfinger recalls of his quest 10 years ago to help recovery efforts on that fateful day.
Since moving to Marco Island, Heffelfinger provided support in the form of donations of food and supplies to Jeff Morse and his team of bicyclists.
“I certainly hope I can do whatever I can to support them in their ride,” he said. “For me, the memory of 9/11 never changes. Every year it comes back exactly as I remembered it over time.”
Jeff Morse graciously thanks supporters such as Heffelfinger, and hopes many more will come out for celebrations prior to the Brotherhood Ride official send off at Station 45 on August 20.
“I would like to thank all of our supporters. I’d really like to see a large group at Station 45 at the send off. I’d like the brothers to feel the love of the Naples residents, and the support of the residents for this cause,” he said.
The Brotherhood Ride can be reached on Facebook and by visiting www.brotherhoodride.com.