Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Day Three - Arriving At The Memorial

Rise and shine, it's an early start to the day.

We started in Fredericksburg Va. It's a cold way to start, by Florida's standards, a chilly 42 degrees. So down the riders come, looking like lost sheep half asleep getting ready for the absolute best day of the Police Unity Tour. After some coffee and bagels and bananas and Gatorade and...... well, a full restock, the cyclists were ready to leave.

About 6:10 a.m. the riders left the hotel parking lot, ready to tackle the best sets of hills on the ride. After pedaling on the Jefferson Davis Highway we cross over the Rappahonnock River. In the early morning the fog hanging over the river is a beautiful site. About 20 miles in we took a break and joined with the Virginia chapter to ride together for the remainder of the day. From there we rode through Stafford County, Va. It's beautiful country with large rolling hills. As we climbed a little grade on an overpass across the Jeff Davis Highway stood a group of four Stafford County officers. They snaped a smart salute and held it until the entire train passed beneath them.

A little while after that we arrived at Quantico and pulled into the parking lot of the Marine Museum. We took a short break there before continuing on. A few more hills later we started to approach Mt. Vernon. Along the way, the riders dressed up the lines riding "two-by-two" to make a sharp double-file line.

As we approached the entrance to Mt. Vernon the motor units had no shame when it came to announcing the arrival of the bikes. This caused a large group to gather at the entrance to watch the line of riders pass and then spontaneously break out in applause and cheering. It was truly moving to have that many people wishing you well!

After passing Mt. Vernon, it went on cruise control. The bikes had a long, long, long, gentle downhill run that trailed along the Potomac River. It was so picturesque. Stately old trees framed the Potomac as we passed along moving closer to Ft. Hunt. At lunch, we stopped at Ft. Hunt to eat a quick lunch and then push on to RFK stadium to meet the chapters that have travelled south from New Jersey. As we pushed into Alexandria, the business district was busy and full of folks going about their day. Once again, our motors had no shame in announcing our arrival, so naturally the curious public lined the streets to see what was going on. As the riders passed the on-lookers stared at the sight of almost 500 bicyclists in blue riding past.

After an exciting run we arrived at RFK stadium, where we met with the northern chapters and began the short 3 miles to the memorial. Now this is what is probably the most impressive site to this point. Almost 1000 riders and a LONG support train wound their way from the stadium and eventually made it to the memorial. This line was so long that the head arrived before the tail ever left. To see it as a rider must be so impressive.

From my vantage point I saw the "thin blue line" snake its way through our nation's capital. And then came, the culmination of the ride, pedaling into our sacred ground: The National Law Enforcement Memorial. The riders rode and walked between the memorial walls and then assembled at the dais. We could now say with a certain amount of pride that we completed the journey and lived up to our motto, "We ride for those who died!" After some heartwarming speeches and triumphant stories of success we finished up and returned to our hotels.

Now, if that wasn't reason enough to join up for next year's ride, the most important day of the week is yet to come. Wednesday night the names of the officers killed in 2008 will be officially added to the wall along with the names of many officers who were lost to time and history. The names of these men and women are etched in the granite walls of our memorial and will be read aloud one last time, as a final "Roll Call of Honor." That is just a sample off what is yet to come!

Let the 19,000-plus names inscribed upon the walls never be forgotten.

- Krista Williamson, CCSO -