They live on separate continents, but one event will join them.

Australian fire fighter Paul Ritchie and New York City fire fighter Liam Flaherty (pictured left) will join forces this weekend on the Tour of Duty Ride.

It’s a 2,600-mile cycling journey that will begin this Sunday at the USS Midway in San Diego and will end September 10 at the USS Intrepid in New York City.

Twenty-four fire fighters, police officers and other supporters all are planning to participate in the 30-day ride as a way to acknowledge and pay respect to first responders and military members who serve and protect their communities daily.
“This is a good will event that brings solidarity, unions and friendship together and helps us to acknowledge the great work first responders are doing,” Ritchie says.

Two years ago, Australian and American first responders partnered for the Tour of Duty Relay Run that took them to 20 states in 30 days. The relay run is a way for participants to remember the sacrifices of emergency personnel and members of the military who responded to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Local 854 member Liam Flaherty, a 22-year veteran and captain of Rescue 2 in Brooklyn, New York, says the 2010 run was a cathartic experience because it allowed him to say thank you to all the people who traveled to New York to help in the aftermath of September 11.

Flaherty organized his colleagues in New York into surveillance units to help search for victims of the terrorist attack as a way to bring closure to families.

“We got to hug people and shake hands and say thank you,” Flaherty says. “It was a worthwhile experience.”
This time around, these first responders won’t be running; they’ll be cycling across the United States.

They hope the cycling experience will be less physically grueling, but in any case both Ritchie and Flaherty have been trying to get into shape.

The cycling trip will take them to cities including Las Vegas, Phoenix, Flagstaff, Denver, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, Chicago, Cleveland, Memphis, Baltimore, Washington, DC and, ultimately, New York City.
Ritchie is a huge baseball fan and hopes to see inside Wrigley Field on his stop in Chicago.

Cannondale is sponsoring the bikes for the cycling adventure. The cyclists will ride for eight hours each day (with most of the riding being done in the morning and early afternoon) and will stay in hotels. They hope to have an opportunity to meet other first responders and military members to share stories, have a drink and say thank you for serving.

Flaherty, who is chair and drum major of the FDNY Emerald Society Pipes and Drums, says cyclists will pay their respects at the World Trade Center.

The cycling journey will be documented and we’ll keep you posted on the Tour of Duty Ride.

Tour of Duty Ride in the press