In 2005, I had the honor and priveledge of riding my bicycle nearly 4,500 miles across the continential United States with Habitat Bicycle Challenge. Together with 25 other University students, we rode our bicycles for 63 days from coast-to-coast, raising money and awareness for Habitat for Humanity. The experience changed my life.
On the ride we faced mountains, rivers, dogs and of course our own fears. One of our biggest fears, death. Just three weeks into the trip, teammate, Rachel "Ramie" Speight was killed in a motor vehicle bicycle accident. In one moment, our ride and my life was forever changed. However, in the midst of our tragic loss, we kept riding.
Today, I was informed that firemen from across America and Australia are running in the same tradition, in memory of the firemen lost in 9/11, nearly ten years ago. At precisely 8:46am Thursday August 12th of 2010, the exact time that the first plane crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11th of 2001, a total of thirty-four firefighters from both the United States and Australia, along with two police officers, one from Las Vegas Metro and one from New York's Port Authority, set off on a 'Tour of Duty' in remembrance of 9/11.
On my journey, just five years ago, I not only learned about myself and how to stand up in the face of obstacles, but my eyes were opened to the generosity of Americans. On our ride, complete strangers put us up, fed us and cheered us on for every mile of our ride. Similiar to how my life was change in a second, so to, was the United States after the events of September 11th. The Tour of Duty exemplifies how Americans and people of service can come together and make a difference. Funds raised will be donated to several charities nominated by the Fire Fighters and Emergency Services of America.
Back in 2005, we chronicled the journey through a blog and (*gasp) a camcorder . For Tour of Duty, you can follow the firemen and women through high tech GPS tracking and documented live-stream several times a day via satellite, see for yourself at: http://www.tourofduty.com.au/
In closing, I share a stanza of a poem written by the late Ramie Speight a couple years before the end of her life. I share it with you in memory of the firemen lost on 9/11 and in strength of those who run in their memory.
I know I can't control my destiny.
I'm glad I'm not the total boss of me.
I know that planning sometimes goes awry
And hopes and dreams and fancies sometimes die,
But that won't stop me from trying.
When I in musty wooden coffin lie,
And mourners come to offer their goodbye
And I become part of the dusty earth
Away from human suffering and mirth
That'll stop me from trying.