"Thank You America" Bike Tour, with a lights and siren escort from the Fire and Police Departments rolled into Bristol, VA Monday night after a couple of challenging days today and Sunday. The wind picked up and the hills got a little steeper to put more stress physically on the five. But Firefighter Ralph Perricelli, who is driving the chase van, said he thinks the guys are getting stronger physically.
"It is tougher emotionally on them meeting all the people along the way. But it means a lot to these people. They make a real connection to New York," Perricelli said. A school of about 500 kids lined the road today at one point, he said.
The six firefighters - Danny Rowan, Salvatore Princiotta, Drew Robb, Gerard Dolan, Matthew Hornung and Ralph Perricelli - are from Ladder Co. 9, Engine Co. 33, which lost 10 of its members in the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.
Elaine Gaston with the Pasadena-based Disk Marketing Inc. which has helped with communications and publicity for the tour, said the turnout along the route has been great. During lunch in Marion, VA, the mayor gave them the key to the city, she said. And in Wythezille, VA, "a tiny, tiny little town" as she called it, the town presented them with a $10,000 check for the the IAFF New York Firefighters 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund.
The tour is planning to be in Knoxville, TN by Wednesday evening. There the fire department is planning for a big Thanksgiving dinner Thursday. Gaston said ABC Television network news was planning to cover that affair.
The East Village firefighters are bicycling across the country in an effort to show their gratitude to all those who have reached out to them with donations and emotional support. The tour will take them through 19 states and over 2,757 miles before coming to a close in Los Angeles, California, the original destination for one of the flights that crashed into the World Trade Center.
Firehouse.Com News will continue to update the progress and route of the "Thank You America" Bike Tour.
"Thank You America" Reaches Bristol Virginia FD
J. C. BOLLING Bristol Fire Department
The FDNY "Thank You America" bike tour arrived in Bristol Virginia Monday evening. The city of Bristol Virginia Fire Department opened its doors and hearts to welcome them with a show of support.
Arriving at the city limits shortly before 6PM, the cyclists were met by Engine 3 for an escort. Arriving at Fire Station 1, the FDNY cyclists were greeted and welcomed by Mayor Doug Weberling, Chief Dick Steinberg and Assistant Chief Walt Ford, Bristol Professional Firefighters Local 2499 President Keith Bowen, and numerous Firefighters from the city and surrounding areas, along a Hero's local press coverage.
The media interaction was followed with a "home cooked" meal prepared by Chef Bowen of Bristol Fire Department. (Lemon Pepper Chicken, Creamed Potatoes & Pasta Salad.) Even with a tiring schedule, FDNY Cyclists took time to share experiences from Ground Zero, and took time out to greet numerous visitors, including children, who stopped in to say "Thank You" to them. (Many with numerous hugs & smiles) The route traveled by the cyclists today encountered a showing of support from Chilhowie Virginia school children lined up along the road cheering them on. Although this is a "Thank You America" tour, this provides an opportunity for everyone a chance to say Thank You to FDNY, along with our heart-felt feelings of support.
We consider it a great honor for Bristol Virginia Fire Department to be chosen as an overnight stop along the tour. We welcome the opportunity to provide true Southern hospitality to our FDNY friends. After a nights rest, we will prepare breakfast for the cyclists and assist with anything else needed before seeing them off Tuesday morning. We wanted their last stop in Virginia to be an example of true Firefighter support and great hospitality.
The cyclists plan to travel from Bristol to Johnson City, Tennessee for lunch, and then onto Greeneville, Tennessee as the final stop for Tuesday evening.