Gatherings at the Boston Marathon finish line and Copley Square are not uncommon, but on May 17, 2014, during National EMS Week, more than 100 friends, family members and colleagues of EMS personnel gathered at the finish line on bicycles. They would begin a 530-mile trek to remember the lives and accomplishments of 87 deceased EMS personnel during the East Coast route of the National EMS Memorial Bike Ride.
The 175-person team of riders and support personnel created a moving memorial from Boston, Mass. to Alexandria, Va. honoring the lives of EMS personnel who became sick, injured or died in the line of duty. In seven days, the bikers traveled through Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.
Simultaneously, 11 riders and support personnel began a 450-mile route in Paintsville, Ky., traveling through the Appalachian Mountains to meet the East Coast route in Baltimore, Md. The two groups biked together to Alexandria.
Paramedic Rocco Caprarello lost his partner prior to the National EMS Memorial Bike Ride in 2009. A colleague encouraged him to ride that year.
“He told me it's not about the miles but about the respect for what we do and the honor of those gone before us,” Caprarello said.
Caprarello has participated every year since then.
Avid cyclist and Paramedic Andrew Christopherson addressed the crowd of riders one morning about his former EMS partner Willie Orey.
“We ride to remember and memorialize the sacrifices of our fellow EMS professionals who gave their lives so that others may live,” Christopherson said. “Each day when we struggle and reach our limits, we pull from the spirit of those who gave their all, and we move forward with strength.”
The National EMS Memorial Bike Ride hosts four separate long-distance cycling events throughout the United States each year. The participants, affectionately known as “Muddy Angels,” attempt to bring closure to EMS agencies and families by honoring the nominated individuals each year. Memorial ceremonies occur each day of the rides during which names of honorees are read, autobiographical posters are displayed and dog tags are shared.
Two rides remain for 2014. From June 25–27, bikers will travel through Colorado, starting in Fort Collins and ending in Colorado Springs, and they plan to stop at the Air Medical Memorial site. From September 22-27, the West Coast route begins in Reno and finishes in San Francisco, with rides around Lake Tahoe and over the Golden Gate Bridge.