A Ride to Remember

Andrew Hackmack Long Island Herald

Right on schedule, Michele Walsh Myers pulled up to the Seaford 9/11 Memorial on two wheels last Saturday afternoon. What she wasn’t expecting was everything that followed. Myers, 48, a Seaford native who now lives in Rochester, completed a 450-mile bicycle trip, called the Ride to Remember, from July 25 to Aug. 1 in honor of victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. She began the final four-mile journey at John J. Burns Park in Massapequa on Saturday, and was joined by about a dozen riders as she arrived at Seaford High School, her alma mater, on Seaman’s Neck Road.

She pulled up to a waiting crowd of family, friends, elected officials and Seaford School District leaders, all gathered in the shadow of a large American flag draped from the extended ladder of a Seaford fire truck. In the ceremony that followed, she was presented with numerous citations, and invited by Nassau County Legislator Steve Rhoads to a full session of the Legislature to be formally honored.

Photo Long Island Herald

Photo Long Island Herald

The fanfare was a surprise to Myers, and as she came to the microphone, her first words were, “I’m just really tired.”

Her journey began in Buffalo, at the Iraq and Afghanistan Memorial, which honors 72 servicemen and women killed in the wars that followed 9/11. She rode to Brockport, where she was working on her teaching degree at the time of the attacks, and stopped at the 9/11 memorial there.

The next 343 miles, in honor of the number of firefighters who died, took her to the new World Trade Center in Manhattan. Along her journey, she stopped at several firehouses and handed out FDNY patches to volunteers. “Everyone was so welcoming and supportive,” she said, “thanking me for doing this.”

The most challenging part of her journey was the fourth and fifth days of the ride, when she traveled through the rolling hills of the Poconos. The roads were not welcoming to bicyclists, she said, with little or no shoulders and lots of construction.

Myers said that the weather was good throughout the trip, with the exception of one day when she had to deal with rain. Thunder and lighting forced her to travel in her support car for a stint. Her bike held up well. Aside from breaking a mirror and getting stung by a bee, everything else went as planned, she said.

The Seaford 9/11 memorial honors five district alumni who were killed in the attacks, including Timothy Haskell and Michael Wittenstein, members of the class of 1985. Myers wanted to pay tribute to her two former classmates. Maureen Haskell, who lost her sons Timothy and Thomas, said she was touched by Myers’s efforts. “I think she’s a true hometown hero,” Haskell said. “Four hundred and fifty miles is just mind-boggling. I’m very proud of her.”

Haskell, who remembers Myers as a child, said it was amazing how someone from the past has come back to do something meaningful for the community.

Myers said that seeing Kenny Haskell on television in the aftermath of the attacks, searching for his brothers, made an indelible impact on her. She raised money during the ride, and donated $2,700 to the Seaford 9/11 Memorial Fund.

Tom Condon, the chairman of Seaford’s 9/11 Committee, said the money would go a long way. The committee maintains the memorial at the high school, runs the annual anniversary service and funds the Patriot Award scholarships and dinner.

“Every year we do something to improve the memorial, and that costs money,” Condon said, adding that in the future, three artifacts from the World Trade Center will be installed.

Scott Bersin, principal of Seaford High, said it was an honor that Myers chose to finish her ride at the school. “The Seaford High School community could not be more proud to have hosted the arrival of the Ride to Remember,” he said. “We know how important our schools are to our community, which, of course, includes our alumni.”

Myers’s mother, Eileen Walsh Alber, drove the support and gear car for much of the trip. The vehicle was there with food and water, as well as equipment for repairing her bike, and provided shelter during inclement weather.

“Her dream came true,” Alber said. “I’m just so proud of her. The whole family is proud of her.”

Myers said she had already been asked if she would do the ride again. She said she would revisit the idea in the future, but would plan her routes differently. A phys. ed. teacher, she planned to stay with her family in Seaford for a few weeks before heading back upstate with her son, Benjamin, 11, in time for the new school year.

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