There are many unsung heroes amongst us, and some of the bravest are those who put their lives on the line for people they’ve never met. When emergency responders take their oath, they know it means risking their own lives for those of others, and yet they do it anyway. Sadly, sometimes that risk becomes a reality.
This reality was something firefighter Jeff Morse wanted to honor. He didn’t want this loss of life to go unrecognized, so in 2007 — after nine Charleston firefighters lost their lives in the line of duty — he started The Brotherhood Ride. What started out as a group of firefighters cycling 600 miles to honor the lives of those firefighters and provide emotional and financial support to their families has become an annual event honoring an unsung hero or heroes who lost their lives while working as emergency responders.
LonoLife is sponsoring the latest ride in August, so we thought we’d use this time to find out more about this incredible mission.
How did the idea come about to get a group of first responders to all get on their bikes and cycle such long distances?
We heard about the Charleston, SC Sofa Store fire on June 18, 2007. Nine firefighters died in the line of duty trying to save someone trapped inside. This was the most firefighters to die in one fire since 9/11. We felt we needed to do something and decided to raise funds throughout the year. Then we wanted to show the families a year later that their loved ones were not forgotten, so our team decided to ride bicycles to honor them. It was actually called nine days for nine heroes. We thought this was only going to be a one-time event but a month after we returned a Fort Myers Police officer was shot and killed. They reached out to us to see if we would honor Officer Widman the following year and of course we did. We have continued and this will now be our 14th year.
How many cyclists typically take part in a ride?
We normally have 40-50 cyclists and about 20 support personnel who are from all over the United States.
How do you decide who to honor each year?
We are based in Florida and will always honor our hometown heroes first. Our team is composed of riders from across America and we will honor fallen heroes that affect them. Sadly, we’ve had reason to travel to honor heroes from SC, TX, NY, TN, GA, PA, NJ, CT and MA.
How have your efforts been received by the families of those you visit?
They are overwhelmed that we would ride bicycles for such a distance for someone we have never met. Most families come out to see us ride and are excited to see their loved ones’ names on the back of our jerseys. This signifies to them that their hero has not been forgotten.
What kind of support do you provide these families?
We hope we provide the families, friends and co-workers some comfort as we honor their loved ones. Through year-round fundraising we are honored to provide the families with a donation in the memory of their loved ones.
What would you like people to understand about the life of a First Responder?
These brave men and women leave their homes, kiss their loved ones goodbye and go to work protecting their community, not knowing if they will return home from their shift.
What does the future look like for the Brotherhood Ride?
Unfortunately, we have lost heroes this year and we are in the planning stages to honor them in 2022. We pray everyday that there will be a year we do not have to ride.