-- June 20, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 281
Cycles Of Vigilance Roar Into NYC
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
ZERO, New York City, June 20--Thousands of motorcycles swarmed Little
Italy last night as part of Gooch's Garlic Run--a convergence of Bikers Of
Vigilance, ranging from Hells Angels to Blue Knights. Blue Knights
are current and former police officers who raise money for charities,
including helping donate funds to the families of World Trade Center
An estimated 2,000 "Cycles Of Vigilance," led by
police escorts, weaved their way across New York and into the Little Italy
district where they ate and celebrated the 15th annual Gooch's Garlic
Run--started a decade and a half ago by a cycle buff police officer named
Laura Martel, a 30-year-old 911 dispatcher from
Washington, N.J. rode sixty miles on the back of her boyfriend's Suzuki
Marauder. "This is our first year," she said. "We came
to support the families from Nine Eleven."
Martel was off-duty on September 11, on a medical
leave of absence. She rushed into the city the following day to
offer her help with her boyfriend and motorcycle buff, Greg Church.
Laura Martel &
"We felt we had to help," she said.
Martel's father is a U.S. Marshall.
Bob Titolo and Anthony Pirolo, retired police
officers from Suffok County, Long Island, are part of the 15,000-member
Blue Knight motorcycle club that sponsors the charity event. The
Blue Knights boast 430 chapters in 19 countries, and have been riding for
charity since the Spring of 1974 when Ed Gallant from Bangor, Maine Police
and Chuck Shuman from Brewer, Maine PD launched the
Pirolo, ready to travel across the U.S. in tribute to Lewis &
The club's press release notes that from September 1, 1991 to March 30,
2002 the Blue Knights have donated
to 1677 charities; contributed more than 137,494.5 hours of time, and over
$3.2 million in cash contributions. They call themselves a "family
fraternity," urging spouses and children to ride on all events.
Anthony Pirolo says the club
has brought him close to his 13-year-old son. "He goes with me
everywhere," Pirolo said, who has been riding since 1969. He
has visited forty-nine states, all the National Parks and Canada.
This summer he plans on taking his son on the Centennial celebration` of
the Lewis & Clark Trail, riding from Wood River, Illinois to the Pacific
"We have a ball," he said. "I love my
bike," Pirolo commented, and, urged by his friends, kissed his bike's gas
"We don't ride alone," his friend Titolo, added.
"We're Vigilant. Before we leave on a ride a priest blesses
our bikes...we have a bike blessing. It helps us all remember
Not only was Little Italy filled with
police and former police riders, but also various motorcycle clubs from
throughout the United States participated. Some of the bikes
glowed in the dim light, their engines washed in a radiation of neon to
set off the chrome and stop gawkers in their tracks to admire the
mechanical stallions' beauty.
admire bikes at 15th Annual Garlic Run
American flags dotted the antennas of the
bikes, as well as MIA-POW flags. Helmets carried messages to the
Terrorists that "These Colors Don't Run!" and "Osama bin Laden Sucks
The president of the NYC Hells Angels
and two of his members strolled down the row of gleaming motorcycles,
examining them and soaking in the festivities celebrating the most popular
of all cycles--the Harley Davidson.
The sidewalk was littered with tables
jammed clear to the edge of the street, with some tables next to the
parking meters so that "No Parking" signs seemed to spear out the table's
center as thousands ate Italian food and drank wine.
Not far from the festive Garlic
Run stood the quiet 16-acre hole where the World Trade Center once
rocketed nearly a quarter mile toward the heavens.
Rescue work had stopped
effective May 30, the official closing of the "search for survivors or
The wave of Life that poured
into Lower Manhattan might seem to an observer to be negligent in paying
its respects to the fallen not many blocks away. But anyone
who knew the majority of the riders present were police, firemen,
emergency workers, realized that in their hearts was a special memorial
for the hundreds of brave who died that September day trying to save
The days when everyone wore
symbols of Vigilance regarding Nine Eleven have passed. Time has a
way of cleansing old wounds so that Life can proceed. But
there were a few poignant reminders.
My wife spotted one. A man wearing a Nine Eleven T-shirt,
wending his way through the thick stream of humanity shuffling
up Mulberry Street. I caught up to him and took a picture
of his shirt. It looked fresh, new. Perhaps
he had just bought it, I thought, or perhaps he had a drawer
full of new ones he wore to special events.
It didn't really
I snapped the picture.
As I did, I was sure
I could hear the Sentinels of Vigilance above Ground Zero sigh
They had not been
The Blue Knights,
Hells Angels and the other cyclists there would not let that
Not as long as they
rode and the winds of Freedom blew in their faces.
Below are links to a picture
page showing a variety of photos taken at the Garlic Run--if
you are interested in seeing over $20 million worth of beautiful
motorcycles, then click on the this link: Cycle
To June 19--Martyr Medals--Heroes Of Terrorism
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