America’s 9/11 Ride will be roaring through Leesburg again on Aug.17 after a one-year hiatus. The motorcycle tour to the three 9/11 memorial sites, founded to remember those who sacrificed their lives, raises scholarships for family members of active duty and paid volunteer first responders.
In spite of a few unexpected challenges, founder Ted Sjersuth is confident the ride will bring as many cheers and tears as it did in previous years.
“We can’t forget what occurred,” Sjersuth said.
Sjersuth started the ride in November 2001. Motorcycles gather in Somerset County, Penn., near the site of the Flight 93 crash, circling through Leesburg to the Pentagon, and then up to New York City and the 9/11 memorial. The ride’s popularity grew over the years, gaining national attention and respect.
By 2016, 1,700 motorcycles took more than 30 minutes to cruise through Leesburg. However, when Sjersuth stepped down from his role as coordinator, the new board decided to cancel the ride. Many, especially in New Jersey and New York, were incensed the ride was ending. Sjersuth remembers talking to a frustrated interviewer who asked him, “Isn’t the motto to never forget?”
When America’s 9/11 Foundation raised no money during the hiatus and 1,400 children of first responders competed for the nonprofit’s 15 annual scholarships this year, Sjersuth knew the ride needed to happen again. He stepped up to coordinate the 2018 ride.
It’s been something of an uphill battle as Sjersuth has tried to reestablish relationships with various municipalities. Leesburg town staff initially told Sjersuth they’d charge $4,800 for police and public works support. They charged nothing in the past.
Sjersuth went to Town Council during its July 24 meeting to request a waiver, wheeling a bin of scholarship applications up to the speaker’s podium.
“I was floored [about the fee]. The board was floored,” he told council. “It takes away two and a half scholarships.”
Council voted unanimously to waive the fee this year and in the future.
“This is obviously for a good cause and the benefits seem to outweigh the costs,” Councilman Tom Dunn said.
Though America’s 9/11 Ride will still feature an impressive police vanguard and hundreds of motorcycles, this year’s event will be a little different. Sjersuth is capping riders at 600 and the police escort at 102 to ease logistics. The police escort is full, and a little more than 500 motorcyclists have signed up so far.
One tradition that will be making its last appearance for a while is Sjersuth’s vibrant red, white and blue Harley. At the end of the ride, Sjersuth will donate the bike to the World Trade Center Museum for display—the bike records the names of the fallen and signatures of first responders.
Sjersuth says Leesburg, Cumberland, Md., and Hightstown, N.J., are favorites along the ride because of the large and enthusiastic turnout.
“There’s not a dry eye of anyone on the ride,” Sjersuth says of the group’s trips through Leesburg.
The ride is expected to come through downtown Leesburg between 1:30 and 1:45 p.m. on Aug. 17.