Following a one-year hiatus, the familiar roar of motorcycles and red, white and blue adorned riders will again rumble down Leesburg’s King Street on Aug. 17.
The Loudoun-based America’s 9/11 Foundation has announced plans to reprise its annual motorcycle ride that visits the three sites impacted by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001—the crash of Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA; the World Trade Center site in New York City; and the Pentagon in Arlington. It’s an event that for 15 years attracted thousands of riders and current and former law enforcement officers.
The ride has passed through Leesburg since 2005, drawing throngs of spectators out onto King Street, many waving American flags, patriotic signs and shouting well wishes and words of appreciation. For many residents and ride participants, the annual pass through Leesburg had become a patriotic August tradition.
That all screeched to a halt last year, after ride organizer Ted Sjurseth announced that 2016 would be the final 9/11 Ride. He cited rising costs—tolls alone cost the nonprofit tens of thousands of dollars for each ride—and a desire to focus his attention on his family. Sjurseth had hoped the foundation board would be able to come up with other fundraisers to support its college scholarship program for children of first responders, but that has not happened.
“In the last 15 months we’ve gotten 1,400 people applying for college scholarships, but the new board has not raised any money. So, in 2017 we raised no money and still gave away $30,000 [in scholarships] bringing our bank account down,” he said.
So Sjurseth’s wife offered to chair the ride and bring it back for 2018. Ride weekend alone can bring in $50,000, all in support of college scholarships.
Organizers are limiting the ride to 600 bikers and are once again planning to pass through downtown King Street. “I’m hoping that the people of Leesburg come out like they did before,” Sjurseth said.
Last week, he requested, and was granted by the Town Council, a permanent and automatic waiver of any fees that would be charged by the town for police and public works staffing along the ride route. Sjurseth was initially told it would cost the organization almost $5,000 for the town to provide staffing for the ride through Leesburg, which would have been the first the organization was billed.
With that matter squared away, the bikes are revved and ready for the ride, which rolls through Leesburg about 2 p.m. Aug. 17.
“You’d be amazed how often people come back and say thank you for bringing this back in my life,” Sjurseth said.
Find more information on the 9/11 Ride at americas911foundation.org.