For many local firefighters, June 18, 2007, was a well deserved day off when the news broke that nine Charleston firefighters lost their lives doing what they love to do, fighting fires and saving lives. Although firefighters may become callous and numb to the news of a comrade’s death when nine lives are lost it becomes significant and hits home. When firefighters feel a loss or pain they gravitate to their second home, their fire station, not to work but to be among those that would also be experiencing the same feelings.
On June 18th, 2007, when I arrived at Station 45 it was quiet. I found shoes of the men and women from the station that were responding to a call. They left behind their shoes to put on their gear. For nine Charleston Firefighters, their shoes would never be worn again. They would forever be left at their fire stations representing nine fathers, husbands, brothers, friends, loved ones that would never return.
As time went on, a small group of firefighters gathered at the station. This is when the concept of the Brotherhood Ride was conceived. It was at this time that we decided to honor these nine members of the Charleston Fire Department. We wanted to help the families of these brave professionals. We wanted to provide financial as well as emotional support to them. We wanted them to know that their loved ones would not be forgotten in the days, months and years to come. We didn’t want these unsung heroes to just become a statistic of being a part of the single deadliest disaster for firefighters since 9/11. We knew whatever we did to honor these heroes should not and would not be easy. Whatever we did would be representative of the pain and loss that the families of these nine brothers would be feeling. This is when we decided to ride bicycles nearly 600 miles from Naples, Florida to Charleston, South Carolina. We knew it wouldn’t be an easy ride but then again it would be nothing compared to the ultimate sacrifice the Charleston 9 made. The training and ride would be grueling, time-consuming and challenging.
We decided that this would be a yearly event. Each year we would select an unsung hero or heroes from around the country to honor by riding our bicycles to their hometown and providing financial and emotional support to their families, friends and coworkers. The ride would take place about a year after their death as a reminder that they have not and would not be forgotten.
The Brotherhood Ride continues the tradition of Honor, Dedication and Pride. Over the past ten years, we have honored the memory and sacrifice of a total of 531 Emergency First Responders which includes; firefighters, law enforcement officers and emergency medical personnel. Our team has traveled on bicycles over 8,000 miles, through sixteen states, have been hosted by over forty Elks Lodges nationwide and assisted by countless emergency first responders who have shown the true meaning of Brotherhood.
Through year-round fundraising efforts, the Brotherhood Ride has been able to honor the memory of fallen heroes and provide emotional and financial support to their families. Past Brotherhood Rides, we have honored our fallen brothers and sisters from SC, TX, NY, FL, TN, VA, PA, NJ, CT and MA and we are very proud to have donated over $400,000.00 to the families left behind.
Thank you to everyone who sponsors and supports us. With your help, we are able to show the families and friends of those who have died in the line of duty that their loved ones will not be forgotten.
Founder – President