Committed to remembering the police officers, firefighters, military and emergency service workers who lost their lives in the line of duty on Sept. 11, 2001, a group of 32 American and Australian firefighters are running in honor of the fallen from Santa Monica to New York.
On Thursday, Aug. 12 at precisely 8:46 a.m. — the time the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center’s South Tower — the firefighters will head off on their run across America from the Santa Monica Pier. The 16 Australian and 16 American firefighters plan to complete the U.S. Tour of Duty run at New York City’s World Trade Center site on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
Organizers say that the 7,038-kilometer run has been meticulously planned over the past few years by a group of Melbourne firefighters, led by Paul Ritchie. Seven Melbourne firefighters will be joined by nine other firefighters from all around Australia, and 16 from the United States on the run.
James Dowdell, New York Fire Department firefighter and son of Rescue One responder Kevin Dowdell, one of the first firemen to be killed on 9/11, will accept a battle-scarred helmet that was signed by his father in 1998.
Pre-race activities include hundreds of U.S. firemen, celebrities and fire department pipe bands, a horse-drawn steam-powered fire engine, a presentation of medals to runners and a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Australian singer Annabelle Priftis, 16, will sing Australia’s national anthem and her tribute song “Heroes,” while the U.S. national anthem will be sung by fire Capt. Cedric Williams.
The Tour of Duty route will pass through Las Vegas, where Tour of Duty’s U.S. Ambassador show businessman Jerry Lewis will welcome them before they run down the city’s famous Strip. The runners will then head to Arizona where the desert temperatures are expected to top 120 degrees, and on to the site of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings where they will be welcomed by local fire departments.
At 8:46 a.m. on each day of the 31-day journey, the runners will pause to hold a brief dedication ceremony to honor the individuals tragically taken in the Twin Towers tragedy.
The Tour of Duty run will also take them to New Orleans, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and finally to New York City on Sept. 11. The runners will participate in a grand parade over the Brooklyn Bridge, led by 180 pipers, NYFD firefighters and a water cannon salute before ending their run at “Ground Zero.”