Day 9 Dedicated to Brandon Thomson
Today is only a 48 mile journey. The team had decided to sleep an extra hour which means we were up at 7am. The Elks provided us with a delicious breakfast as usual. Unfortunately, this extra hour of sleep seemed to make us go slower while getting ready for the ride. We had hoped to leave by 9:00 am but we were not on the road until 9:30. All riders were excited about finishing the ride but we knew it would be an emotional one.
The morning dedication was for Brandon Thomson. We had the honor of his parents being present during the dedication. The Thomsons presented the Brotherhood Ride with several memorial items. All riders and support team departed the wonderful elks lodge with chants of “God Bless the Elks”. Every rider has expressed how amazed they are with all the Elks Lodges’ hospitality towards the team.
We received both police and fire escorts out of Walterboro. Once we were out of Walterboro, the South Carolina State Police provided the police escort to Charleston. Road surfaces were rougher than we were used to riding on. Some had holes that we swore would have swallowed up a bike. The team again used every safety precaution and good communication among each other to avoid any accidents.
Before leaving the Elks lodge the team had decided to ride a slow easy pace of 15 miles per hour. Once we began the ride everyone felt so good and was anxious to reach Charleston most of the time our speeds reached 20 to 22 mph. We also had a strong tail wind which helped with the speeds. Everone in the pace line felt it was Brandon pushing us closer to his brothers in Charleston.
As we were closer to Charleston, we were met by the County Fire Ladder Truck which joined the escort. Upon reaching the Charleston city line we were met by two battalion vehicles, a ladder truck, an engine and a rescue from the city of Charleston. All apparatus escorted us to the site of the fire.
The riders and the members of the Charleston fire department were able to meet each other for the first time. Although we had not met the firefighters before within minutes we were brothers. We shared stories about the ride, they shared stories about the men we had been riding for for the last nine days. Each rider payed their respects to the fallen heroes in their own way.
We were then escorted to the Charleston Elks lodge were we received a warm welcome from the community. A stage had been set up for the riders and support team. We were presented with some memorial items by the Exalted Ruler of the Charleston Elks, Richard Wetherington.
Bonita Springs Elks lodge Exalted Ruler, Dick Cooke, also welcomed the riders and thanked them for their commitment to the families. I present the Exalted Ruler fro the Charleston Lodge with a thank you plaque for all that the Elks Lodge has done for us.
We then privately met with the families of the Charleston 9. Eight families of the fallen firefighters were presented with a memorial picture of their loved ones signed by all riders and support team. They were also presented with a CD and lyrics of a song sung Shawna DiAngleow which she dedicated to the Charleston 9.
The Brotherhood Ride was then able to present a check for $35,000.00 to the families. All the family members commented how proud and comforted by the Brotherhood Ride. After spending time with the families, we joined the families, community, and Charleston firefighters for a fantastic steak and chicken dinner.
Once all riders had showered and most of the crowd had left for the evening we were able to relax once again. We were treated by the Elks lodge to an open bar. Several riders even participated in karaoke with Zack still rock’n the house. The Elks then opened up their bowling alley for the team to use. We then played our last late night Frisbee game and then finally went to sleep.