9/11 tribute to roll through town Sunday

Motorcyclists stream south on Main Street in Trumbull during the 2015 CT United Ride. The ride’s 15th anniversary event is Sunday.

Falling on the 15th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the 2016 CT United Ride is likely to be the biggest ever, with as many as 5,000 riders, including firefighters from 10 different states, participating, in addition to the estimated 15,000 spectators that line the route. The CT United Ride is the state’s largest 9/11 tribute and the largest police and fire fundraiser in Connecticut, according to event Executive Director Fred Garrity.

“For those that lost their lives, for those that gave their lives, and for those that continue to put their lives on the line each day — that’s why we ride,” Garrity said.

This year, Harold Schaitberger of the International Association of Firefighters will speak at the pre-ride ceremony in Norwalk, and also ride in the 60-mile motorcade. Other officials expected to ride include Gov. Dannel Malloy, both of Connecticut’s United States senators, Rep. Jim Himes and numerous local mayors and state officials, Garrity said.

The ride begins with a 9/11 Tribute at 10:30 a.m. September 11, featuring the Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem, State Firefighters Pipe and Drum Corps and a moment of silence where the Norwalk Fire Dept. rings its bell 11 times beneath two ladder trucks holding a 50-foot American Flag. Speakers will include Malloy, senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, Himes and others. Then the estimated 5,000 riders will ride through 10 towns, ending at Seaside Park in Bridgeport with an after-party featuring food and entertainment.

Garrity said the roads the ride travels on are technically closed for the time it takes the motorcycles to rumble past.

“We have permits for all 10 towns we ride through, so it can be a continuous ride without stopping at lights or stop signs,” he said. Motorists must wait for the entire procession to pass and motorcyclists may not join or leave the procession during the ride, Garrity said.

Police will escort the riders through the entire 60-mile ride. Fire trucks will also hoist 50-foot American Flags over the road in each of the 10 towns along the route.

To participate in the ride, register September 10 at Captain’s Cove in Bridgeport between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., or the day of the ride at 10 Norden Place in Norwalk beginning at 8:30 a.m. Cost is $25 per rider and passenger.

Garrity estimates the ride has raised more than $500,000 dating back to the first ride, which took place just two weeks after 9/11.

“Of all the volunteer events I’ve been involved in, this is the one I’m most proud of,” Garrity said. “There were a lot of 9/11 tributes, and this is one of the few that has stayed around because we do it the right way.”

Garrity said a sign of the event’s health interest seems to be growing each year. A video on the ride’s Facebook page drew 13,000 views in five days. Also, sponsors continue to come back year after year, sometimes calling him to ask how they can get involved.

“They know we do this the Sunday before 9/11 every year, and they call me and ask how they can participate,” he said. “And it’s something that everyone can support. How often do you get to participate in an event that’s fun and patriotic and helps a great cause?”