Motorcycle unveiled as tribute to 9/11

Members of the Greenwich Police Department’s motorcycle corps officially unveil the 9/11 tribute motorcycle that will be in the lobby of police headquarters and brought around town as a teaching tool. — John Ferris Robben

Members of the Greenwich Police Department’s motorcycle corps officially unveil the 9/11 tribute motorcycle that will be in the lobby of police headquarters and brought around town as a teaching tool. — John Ferris Robben

As a tribute to those lost and the sacrifice of their fellow first responders, the Greenwich Police Department officially unveiled a 9/11 motorcycle in its lobby.

The motorcycle, which was donated by the nonprofit America’s 911 Foundation Inc. and then custom painted by Jamie Chasse, will be a part of the lobby at the Public Safety Complex off of Greenwich Avenue but it won’t just be a permanent fixture. It will also be taken out to classrooms and events like the annual Touch A Truck as a teaching tool for the department to reach out to children who might not be fully aware of the impact of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in which the town lost 32 who were residents or were connected to the town.

“My barely teenage children live in a post-9/11 world,” Chief of Police James Heavey said. “They don’t know what it was like before 9/11. This particular motorcycle is going to give those of us who remember 9/11 to never forget, and for those kids who don’t remember or weren’t alive for it to be educated in a way so that it will be a lasting and important thing in their lives.”

The bike was donated as part of a program through America’s 911 Foundation Inc. Every year the foundation sponsors a motorcycle ride from Pennsylvania, where United Flight 93 crashed after passengers took back control from hijackers, all the way to “ground zero” in New York City at the former spot of the World Trade Center. And every year a new motorcycle is given to a first responder department taking part in the ride.

“We’re currently the only motorcycle ride, fully police escorted, that goes to all three crash sites every year,” Richard Pinnavaia of the executive board for the foundation said. “The mission of America’s 911 Foundation is to support first responders throughout the nation. We appreciate all the support from all the police departments, the veterans’ groups and the civilians throughout the country. You give us the strength to go on.”

Mr. Pinnavaia was in Tower Two the day of the attacks on the 35th floor and he felt the second plane hit and he urged everyone in attendance to “never forget.”

This project was pushed forward in Greenwich by Sgt. John Slusarz and his team. Sgt. Slusarz had been a part of the annual ride with fellow GPD Motor Officers Vincent Loria, Ron Carosella and Scott Johnson. He echoed the sentiments of Chief Heavey that this would be an excellent teaching tool for Greenwich children.

“This is going to be a rolling memorial,” Sgt. Slusarz said. “We want this to be a rolling classroom that can teach them what happened and the sacrifices that were made on that day and afterwards. This was a critical point in American history and we have to remain vigilant. This was a very personal project for us. We lost so many people in Greenwich and because of that we were intimately involved in the aftermath. Plus we’re in close proximity to New York City and we sent resources to them. From the moment of the event we were involved. All the officers involved were working that day and were touched by what happened.”

The bike not only has the names of those from town who were killed in the attacks as well as several patriotic symbols but three stars were placed on it as well. Those stars are just like the ones displayed on the flag now being hung in the Public Safety Complex lobby to mark the three officers, William Robbins, Joseph McCormick and James Butler, killed in the line of duty for the Greenwich Police Department since its formation.

The custom design from Mr. Chasse is nothing new for him as he runs his own shop in Southington. He worked closely with GPD Officer Dave Stewart about the design that they felt was memorable but also respectful.

“I try to make any bike design flow throughout the bike but not take away from the bike,” Mr. Chasse said. “I wanted the design to be a complement to it and we wanted to make this subtle.”

Sgt. Slusarz said this was not a project that could be pushed forward by just one officer and it’s not something that could happen overnight. Sgt. Brent Reeves, president of the Silver Shield Association, which serves as the town’s police unit, agreed that this was a team effort that couldn’t have been done without Chief Heavey’s support. There was also needed support from Fairway Market, which held fund-raising events for the project.

“This motorcycle is a shining example of a collaboration between the police department, the Silver Shield Association and our very generous corporate sponsors from Fairway Market,” Sgt. Reeves said. “An endeavor such as this does not come cheap, and when we reached out to Charles Santoro from Fairway Market he simply said, ‘What do you need?’ For that I’d like to thank him. … Every day when we look at this motorcycle it will remind us of the tragedy that befell our loved ones on 9/11. This memorial will serve to strengthen our resolve every day when we walk into the building and remind us why our badges are shaped like shields.”

Selectman David Theis, who attended along with State Rep. Fred Camillo (R-151st) and former Selectwoman Penny Monahan, agreed that the design struck the right notes of being both a memorial and a fitting tribute. He recalled how he had been in Manhattan on Sept. 11 when the World Trade Center was attacked and witnessed first-hand how first responders put their lives at risk by rushing in to try and save lives.

“We can’t forget all our Greenwich Police Department does for us,” Mr. Theis said. “We have heroes right here in our town. I think this motorcycle is a fitting tribute to those who perform those vital duties on a daily basis without any fanfare or fuss.”


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