For Special Patrolman Thomas Rovniak America's 911 Foundation's yearly motorcycle ride represents more than a remembrance of the horrific events that took place on Sept. 11, 2001.
Being an escorting officer for the foundation’s 1,000 civilian riders to the crash sites in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New York is an act of honor for Rovniak.
“I participate in the ride because my friend's sister was killed in the World Trade Center and to help the foundation,” said Rovniak. “She introduced me to my wife. So the ride is to honor her, her family and all those who were victims.”
This year Rovniak and Sergeant Robert Bandelow's service earned the Mayfield Heights Police Department a new Harley-Davidson Motorcycle which was unveiled behind the police department on Friday Dec. 7.
Each year the foundation draws a winner to award the police-designed bike to. The foundation's primary purpose is to ensure that the nation never forgets 9/11. The commemorative bike ride to the sites of the attack takes place in August, and is about remembering the heroes, volunteers and victims of 9/11.
This was the first time Bandelow served as an escort in the ride. He was amazed with the outpouring of support they received as they rode into small and big towns across America.
Driving through towns and seeing hands over hearts made an impression on Bandelow.
“We do tie up traffic, but because of what it is people overlooked that and showed us amazing support,” he said.
When the motorcade rolled through a town residents, firemen and policemen lined the streets waving or draping flags over their home or a roadway.
Executive Director Jeffrey Kitsmiller of America's 911 Foundation who was present for the unveiling of the bike explained the significance of the ride.
“It is a very emotional drive. It shows the nation that we do care and that patriotism is out there,” said Kitsmiller.
The foundation's philanthropic efforts also includes awarding college scholarship funds and donating to public service organizations.