First responders, injured veterans bicycle to each 9/11 crash site

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On September 11, as Americans commemorate the tenth anniversary of that fateful day, more than 350 9/11 first responders, injured veterans, victims’ family members and supporters will embark on a 540-mile Ride 2 Recovery (R2R) bicycle trip to visit each crash site.

Riders will begin the eight-day trek at Liberty State Park on New York Harbor, peddle to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania and finish at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

“Anyone can cycle. We adapt bikes for these healing heroes so they can once again find the physical and mental outlet, whether alone or in groups,” said John Wordin, president and founder of R2R.

“As they rebuild strength and conditioning, they are also healing the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries and depression,” Wordin said. “Cycling is a powerful therapeutic exercise that they can continue to do for the rest of their lives.”

Mike McNaughton, who lost his leg in Afghanistan in 2002, is now R2R’s head of veteran’s assistance.

“Everyone has a connection with 9/11,” McNaughton said. “We wanted to do something to honor the men and women that died on 9/11. We will visit the sites, say a little prayer and just realize what really happened that day.”

The USO will provide rest stops and the American Legion will offer a motorcycle escort for the riders. United Healthcare will be the primary event sponsor for the second year in a row.

“Ride 2 Recovery enables injured service men and women to regain their physical, emotional and spiritual strength as they heal from the visible and invisible scars from their time served,” Forrest Burke, CEO of United Healthcare’s Public Sector, Government, Labor & Education Markets.

R2R hosts rides all over the country and in Europe to challenge injured veterans and raise money for rehabilitation.

“I think the best part that I like is seeing the guys and girls that first come here and they’re like deer in the headlights because they don’t know what to expect and they know it’s a lot of miles… The first few days they’re sore and they’re thinking who got me into this, and as they go to the end and they start knowing they accomplished something… they start smiling,” McNaughton said. “I’m very proud of getting these guys and girls who are in their shells and they have PTSD and traumatic brain injury, but they get to accomplish something and they get to see what they can do when they put their minds to it.”

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