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Riding in remembrance of Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy

YOUR TURN

Where were you, what were you doing and what did you feel when you first heard about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks? Email us your story at news@southtownstar.com and put ‘my 911 story’ in the subject line. Submissions might be published in a future edition.

Planning a special remembrance for the 10th anniversary of 9-11? Contact Donna Vickroy at (708) 633-5982 or dvickroy@southtownstar.com


More Info

Friday’s Oldies-But-Goodies Dance begins at 7 p.m. at the Tinley Park VFW Hall, 17147 Oak Park Ave. Admission is a $20 donation.

To make a donation or for more information on
Ride 2 Recovery, visit ride2recovery.com

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



How do you recognize the most horrific, most moving, most memorable, most profound day in American history?

Brian Smith and Lynn Bigelow will begin the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks embarking on a 530-mile bicycle trip beginning at Ground Zero in New York City and ending eight days later at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Along the way, they will visit historic military landmarks, including Valley Forge, Gettysburg and Shanksville, Pa., where Flight 93 crashed on that fateful day.

Smith, of Tinley Park, and Bigelow, of Joliet, are Army veterans and co-workers at AthletiCo in Tinley Park. They decided last fall to participate in the ride, sponsored by Ride 2 Recovery, an organization that hosts bike rides across the country to raise money to buy modified bicycles for injured veterans.

“This is our way of saying, ‘We remember you’ to anyone who was touched by 9-11. It’s pretty humbling,” said Bigelow, who is regional manager at the facility, which offers physical and occupational therapy.

Smith, a physical therapist, plans to ride in honor of a close college ROTC friend. Lt. Col. Garnet “Gary” Derby was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan last year.

“He has been my primary motivation as I train this summer,” Smith said.

Smith, a graduate of Tinley Park High School, met Derby while both were students at the University of Montana. Though they never served together in combat, they remained friends over the years.

Smith was a first lieutenant in the medical service corps of the Army from 1990 to 1993.

Bigelow attended West Point Academy for two years before an injured knee led to her discharge.

This will be the first long-distance ride for Bigelow and Smith.

As they train, Smith said, “We are learning all about saddle soreness, numb hands and feet and other assorted aches and pains associated with it.”

They’re also getting a lesson in fundraising. In order to participate in the ride, they had to pledge $2,998, one dollar for each of the victims of Sept. 11. Smith has set a personal goal of $5,000.

So far, each has raised $2,400. They hope to meet the goal through a fundraiser Friday at the Tinley Park Veterans of Foreign Wars hall. The organization is donating the use of its hall, Smith said.

Smith, an amateur disc jockey, will do the honors at the Oldies-But-Goodies Dance, which begins at 7 p.m. Local merchants, including MyBike and Bettenhausen Dodge, have donated raffle prizes.

“We are so appreciative of every dollar raised,” Smith said. “We know this is a tough time for everyone.”

Ride 2 Recovery is produced by Fitness Challenge Foundation, in partnership with the Military and VA Volunteer Service Office, to benefit rehabilitation of wounded veterans.

Funds are raised through sponsored bike rides around the country. Money is used to buy specialty bicycles, many of them modified to accommodate lost limbs or poor balance.

Cycling is an important part of their recovery/rehabilitation program, Smith said. It’s an activity that most patients with physical and mental disabilities can participate in and it helps the recovery process, he said.

Since Ride 2 Recovery was started in 2008, more than 1,200 wounded warriors, including veterans of the Vietnam and Gulf wars, have participated in events.

The group has also provided more than 200 spin bikes to veterans associations and hospitals.

Smith said 380 cyclists will participate in the Sept. 11 ride.

“It’s an honorable way of recognizing the sacrifices people have made, military or not, in our modern era of global problems,” he said. “Our reach is worldwide, and we support all who have fought for our freedom.”

During the ride, they will maintain their own bikes, although a crew of bike mechanics will be on hand to handle any big issues. They will stay in hotels and their luggage will be transported for them.

“We’ve trained as best we can, although Illinois does not have hills like they have out east,” Bigelow said.

On the ride, they’ll average 58 miles a day, with the longest leg stretching 95 miles.

Smith and Bigelow say they recognize that it will be a struggle, just as the recovery process is a struggle for those wounded in the line of duty.

And just as the rest of America struggles to make sense of the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

“Americans are inherently giving,” Bigelow said.

“We support each other. When we see someone is down, our instinct is to help them back up.”



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