Even after being filmed for 22 days on a 1,600-mile bicycle trip, the founder of Brotherhood Ride figured the documentary's showing would be a small-time affair.
But on Tuesday, Jeff Morse watched himself on the big screen as the film premiered at Mercato's Silverspot Cinema in not one, but two theaters.
"We thought we'd watch it in someone's cellar, in someone's basement, in someone's backyard," he said. "We never thought it would make it to the big screen."
Morse started the Brotherhood Ride in 2007 to honor fallen rescuers and to raise money for their families. Last year, Massachusetts brothers Mark and Gary Lawrence tagged along as 37 officers, firefighters and emergency responders rode from Naples to New York to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The resulting documentary shows the riders as they stop in cities like Arcadia, Fla., Salisbury, N.C., and Charleston, S.C., where they visited a memorial for nine firefighters who died in a blaze at a furniture store in 2007.
At times like these, the riders are solemn, praying in group fashion and hugging widows of firefighters who died in the line of duty. At others, they act like the brothers they call themselves, wrestling each other on air mattresses and forcing the latest rider to fall off his bike to wear a pair of stretchy pink shorts, which are rumored never to have been washed.
Once in New York City, the riders have a side mission to their intended commemoration: Out on an NYFD fire boat, the men and women pay their respects to Rob Moorhead, a Louisiana firefighter who died while training for the trip.
His ashes in a pink water bottle, Moorhead is passed from rider to rider before making it to the front of the boat, where he is ceremoniously scattered in the water. It was his family's last wish that he be able to complete the trip to New York City.
The film ends with a tribute to Chris Manguso, a Brotherhood Ride support team member who died in June. The clip shows Manguso embracing his son Paul, a North Naples firefighter who fought through tears Tuesday night as he played "Amazing Grace" along with the bagpipe band in honor of his father.
Pete Godshaw, a Bonita Springs resident who was watching the band before the movie showing, said he wanted to come to the premier to support the organization.
"I think what they're doing is just phenomenal," Godshaw said.
Silverspot will screen "Brotherhood Ride" again tonight and Thursday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10.50 each and can be purchased online at www.silverspotcinema.com.