When Fred Garrity and a small team of volunteers began planning the original CT United Ride, none of them suspected that 17 years later the event would have grown into the state’s largest annual 9/11 tribute, attracting thousands of motorcyclists from around the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. The first ride, just weeks after the 9/11 attacks, was supposed to be a one-off event.
“It wasn’t until we saw the success of the event, and the camaraderie that it established, that we started to think we would do it again,” Garrity said. “In 2002, the ride’s slogan was ‘Never Forget’ so it made sense that the perfect tribute was to keep doing it.”
This year’s ride is Sept. 9 and is expected to attract between 3,000 and 5,000 riders to participate in the non-stop 60-mile run through 10 towns, with police escort. Anther 15,000 typically line the route to cheer the riders and more than 100 firetrucks drape American Flags above the roads as the riders pass underneath. Riders will begin lining up at 8:30 a.m. at 10 Norden Place in Norwalk, and the ride will begin immediately after a remembrance ceremony at 10:30. In Trumbull, the motorcade is expected to roll through town along Main Street from the Monroe border to Old Town Road between 12:45 and 1 p.m. Spectators should plan to arrive between 12:15 and 12:30, since Main Street will be closed while the riders are traveling through town.
This year’s ride is dedicated to Walter Greene, a Connecticut State Police officer and Ground Zero volunteer who led the ride for years. Greene, who suffered from 9/11-related health complications, died earlier this year, Garrity said.
Ride organizers have instituted some new rules this year after experiencing problems with gaps in the line of riders last year. The route is closed to traffic and cars are not allowed to cut into the line of riders.
“This year, we are asking people to sign up only if they can ride the entire 60 miles,” Garrity said. “When people leave the ride, it creates a gap in the line, which encourages cars to try and jump in.”
The other new rule is a strict code of conduct. Any participant whose conduct is rude or disruptive to any of the speakers at the remembrance ceremony will be removed from the lineup and not allowed to participate in the ride. There will be no refund and they also will be permanently banned from future rides.
“Unfortunately, the negative actions of a few require us to implement this new rule,” Garrity said. “This is a 9/11 tribute for the victims and heroes, not a political event.”
Other changes to the ride include alterations to its beginning in Norwalk, where construction has forced the closing of about half the staging area. In order to get the ride off on time, it is crucial that riders register in advance at the pre-ride party Sept. 8 at Captain’s Cove in Bridgeport. Registrations will be accepted on the day of the ride, but participants are strongly encouraged to sign up the day before. The registration form is online at ctunitedride.com, and riders do not have to come in person to register, Garrity said.
“Fill it out and have a proxy bring it,” he said. “If you’re riding with a group of friends, you can all fill out your forms and have one person come down and register 20 riders.”