By April McFadden

A decade ago, Guy Green and his wife were preparing to leave their New Jersey home when a news bulletin flashed across the television screen. Terrorists had flown airplanes into the World Trade Center towers. Retired from the Air Force, Green went to Manhattan to see if he could help in any way, only to arrive in time to watch the towers collapse.

That same morning, Douglas Kearns was working for a plumbing and electrical company when he hared the news on the radio. He would not understand the full scope of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks until he reached home that evening.

Green, now a freelance photographer living in Atlanta, and Kearns will mark the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks by embarking on a 16-day cycling tour along with members of the Atlanta Fire Department and departments from across the state. The Freedom Ride will take the cyclists from Atlanta to the site of Ground Zero in New York.

What began as a “coffee table discussion” between Michael Palmeri and his fellow firefighters at Station 21 evolved into a 1,147-mile ride with more than a dozen cyclists committed to the trek.

“It’s a great opportunity to remembering those who gave up the most for this country,” Green said.

The goal of the Freedom Ride is to pay respects to the first responders who lost their lives at Ground Zero and to show their solidarity with firefighters, public safety and military personnel around the world. The riders are also raising money for the New York City 9/11 fund and the Atlanta Fire Foundation to support what Kerns calls the “brotherhood.”

“Once you become a firefighter, you become a part of the brotherhood,” Kearns said. “You know that guy will lay his life on the line just like you.”

Training for the grueling journey has brought out more camaraderie among the Freedom Riders. The riders all bike regularly, but they’ve had to ramp up their training to meet such daunting topography as the 45,000 foot climb on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

“I hope we don’t have to save each other’s lives on this trip,” chucked Jonathan Mason from Fire Station 16.

Aaron Rents and Terminus 200 have signed on as sponsors and the Freedom Riders will depart from the Terminus 200 building in Buckhead with a big send-off on Aug. 26. Before they leave, there is more fundraising to be done. Expect to see firemen with boots in hands at intersections and other locations. Those wishing to make a donation can do so at freedomride2011.com.

Palmeri said other types of donations are welcome, too. Tubes, water, energy drinks and bars are welcome. He also hopes a big crowd will be on hand for the departure on Aug. 26.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.