During long days of cycling across the United States, Buck Buchanan sometimes peeks down at a small container attached to his bike handle. Inside are six photos showing the faces of men who died …
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During long days of cycling across the United States, Buck Buchanan sometimes peeks down at a small container attached to his bike handle.
Inside are six photos showing the faces of men who died during or as a direct result of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.
“I look down at their picture and think ‘I’m doing it for them,’” said Buchanan, a Parker resident. “Their sacrifice is something I don’t want to forget about.”
A retired firefighter, Buchanan, 67, is the vice president of a national cycling club made up of fire service members called Fire Velo. He and 10 other former or current firefighters in the club decided more than a year ago to cycle across the country in commemoration of the 20-year anniversary of the attacks.
The cycling group, made up mostly of 60-year-olds, has averaged about 100 miles of cycling every day with one rest day per week. The group started on the Santa Monica pier in California on Aug. 1 and has already traversed through the southwest, Texas, Oklahoma and much of the Midwest.
As of Aug. 31, Buchanan and the team were in Columbus, Ohio with plans to ride on to the Pentagon and then finish their journey at the site of the World Trade Center in New York City by Sept. 9.
By then, they will have traveled 3,300 miles and climbed 100,000 feet of elevation gain in their up-and-down journey.
“We want people to remember,” Buchanan said. “It was a horrible thing, but in the aftermath of it people really came together and helped each other and did whatever was needed and it was a very patriotic time. I guess we hope that people will maybe rekindle that feeling.”
Throughout their journey, the cyclists have experienced a range of conditions, including extreme heat, humidity and rain. During the first leg of the trip, they saw temperatures over 100 degrees on days they were riding 100 miles.
“We often started at 3:30 or 4 a.m. to get ahead of the temperature,” Buchanan said.
Once they got to Oklahoma, they hit a wave of humidity and they rode in 95-degree temperatures with 95% humidity. Then they were hit by the rains from Hurricane Ida, which made landfall in Louisiana Aug. 29 and then continued across parts of the U.S.
“We’re like the postman,” Buchanan said. “We do it rain or shine.”
The team’s oldest rider is 72 and the youngest is 26.
The team also decided to make the journey a fundraising ride, raising money for several nonprofits benefiting firefighters including Fire Family Foundation and Friends of Firefighters. Each rider is committed to raising a minimum of $6,500 and the group has a goal of raising $100,000. Donations can be made at firevelo.com.
As they ride across the country, the team is followed by a motor home, a support trailer and two SUVs with ice, water and food for the cyclists.
At night, the cyclists, along with their four-person support team, rest at various hotels along their route.
Along the way to New York, the team also stopped at the site of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the national memorial near Pittsburgh of American Airlines Flight 93, which was one of the aircraft hijacked during 9/11.
“What I’m looking forward to is just making that connection back at Ground Zero and visiting one of the stations where they’re going to have a little ceremony for the guys at that station who were lost,” Buchanan said. “It’s just important to keep the focus on that story and to ask people to not forget.”
Buchanan retired from the Los Angeles County Fire Department in 2012, and in 2018 moved to Parker with his wife.
“I want to get back to Parker, it’s such a great place,” Buchanan said. “We’re so happy to be a part of that community.”
Because of the clear lid to the photo container on his bike, Buchanan rotates the top photo — the one he can see — every day. The men photographed were firefighters, a pilot and a first responder who later died from cancer. Some he knew personally, others were friends of friends, still others are victims to whom he’s only distantly connected.
“The slogan after 9/11 was ‘never forget,’” he said. “And 20 years is a significant milestone.”
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