Written by Christy Hinko Friday, 02 September 2011 00:00Greg Gatto of East Meadow will participate in the FDNY 343 Ride from Montauk to the Pentagon to honor the 343 firefighters who were lost in the tragedies of September 11, 2001. The bicycling group of 40 FDNY members will begin their trek at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 7 in Montauk and ride 343 miles, a mile for each of the firefighters who gave their lives to save others at Ground Zero.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, but will be the first memorial bike ride of this magnitude. The idea grew from Mike Alexander, captain at Engine 50, Ladder 19, of Battalion 26 in the South Bronx. He mentioned to others in the firehouse that he was planning to do something special for the anniversary, like riding his bicycle a mile for each of the fallen firefighters. From there, more joined in on the plan, to a group of 40 riders, plus many volunteers who will man the water and rest stops along the ride route.
After the riders make a stop in Westbury, they will stop at the site of the once standing World Trade Towers to pay respect and remember their fallen comrades. Through side streets, the cycling tribute will pass through many towns along the way, with stops planned for Toms River, NJ on Sept. 8, Rehoboth Beach, DE on Sept. 9, and Annapolis, MD on Sept. 10.
The group will arrive in Arlington/Fort Myer, VA on Sunday, Sept. 11, with a wreath dedication at the Pentagon planned for 1 p.m. They will return back to New York by train, while FedEx has donated its services to transport the bicycles back.
Gatto says he has been training for this ride as much as possible. He said his training rides, about three times each week, consist of more than 40 miles each ride. Some of the other riders of the FDNY 343 Ride include Steve Hopkins of Mineola and Brian Healion of Hicksville.
All proceeds generated will be donated to several severely injured military veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, protecting freedom. One of the vets who will benefit from the riders’ dedication is a 20-year-old Marine from upstate New York who lost both of his legs to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
The group still needs corporate and private donations for the event. Donations can be made at www.fdny343ride.com (through PayPal) or by check made out to: FDNY 343 RIDE, 229-19 Merrick Blvd., Box 343, Laurelton, NY 11413. Call Greg Gatto for additional information (516) 782-1177.