9/11 cyclist Ride of Hope hopes first responders get the help they need
LOS ANGELES – As Americans commemorate the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, a group of cyclists will complete their five-day, 225-mile journey to raise awareness of the daily aggravated trauma experienced by first responders.
The Quell Foundation calls it the September 11 Ride of Hope and it will take 20 active, retired and surviving family members of New York City first responders in Arlington, Virginia. Many participants responded to the terrorist attacks two decades ago.
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One of the cyclists, Erich Twachtman, worked closely with some of these first responders in hopes of raising awareness about mental health and the trauma caused by the 9/11 attacks.
“Unfortunately, the mental health of these first responders is often overlooked,” Twachtman said. “These are our heroes who always help everyone, but they seldom ask for help themselves.”
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Twachtman explained that many survivors and first responders who were present on the day the Twin Towers fell are still negatively affected by the tragic event.
Twachtman urged more people to help support the Quell Foundation which he says is doing a tremendous job of helping first responders who are still struggling with mental health issues after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Another member of the ride, Robert Verhelst, was a firefighter who assisted in search and recovery efforts after the collapse of the Twin Towers.
Reflecting on his arrival at Ground Zero following the bombings, Verhelst said he was not ready for what he considered a 23-year-old.
“Your hope is gone,” explained Verhelst. “You start to ask yourself a lot of ‘why’ questions, and a lot of those questions never get answers.”
According to Kevin M. Lynch, CEO and President of the Quell Foundation, first responders are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty.
“These Americans who have dedicated their lives to protecting and saving our own are taking theirs at an unprecedented rate,” Lynch said in a press release. “The deteriorating mental health of first responders in our country is at a critical point.”
Verhelst said the Ride of Hope aims to change that, bringing together a group of people who share one of the most infamous traumas and creating a space to talk about it.