HIGHTSTOWN: Riders honor fallen heroes

By Amy Batista, Special Writer
The America’s 911 Foundation Ride passed through downtown Hightstown Saturday afternoon with horns honking and sirens blaring as onlookers dressed in patriotic attire cheered, waved American flags and held up signs of support.
The America’s 911 Ride is a commemorative motorcycle ride in remembrance of the heroes, volunteers and victims who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001 and since. The Leesburg-based America’s 911 Foundation hosts the annual ride for one weekend to raise money for first responders and their families. The ride is the foundation’s biggest fundraiser.
“I was very pleased with the turnout again this year and the weather was absolutely perfect,” said Paul Kocher, a Hightstown resident and local ride organizer.
Mr. Kocher has been involved with the ride for about six years now.
“We work on the planning throughout the year but things pick up a couple months before the ride,” he said. “We visit local businesses informing people about the ride and collecting donations for the foundation.”
Hightstown was decorated with flags, which the borough’s Department of Public Works put up that morning. Home Depot and Lowe’s also donated American flags that were passed out to community members prior to the start of the ride.
“This is the second year that the America’s 911 Ride Downtown Hightstown Event Page was posted on Facebook to help get the word out and also a place for people to share their thoughts and photos,” he said. “It also was a great tool to communicate to everyone the location of the ride.”
The annual memorial ride takes place the third weekend in August, starting on Friday in Somerset, Pennsylvania, and stopping in Arlington before starting up again the next day at the Pentagon and ending at the World Trade Center Memorial Site in New York.
Since the ride started eight weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, it has traveled into New York 14 times. The foundation has given out more than $400,000 to first responders, their departments and families. It has also presented $300,000 in college scholarships to children of active duty first responders, according to the foundation.
Next year will mark the 15th anniversary of 911 and the foundation will host its final ride.
This year, locally, riders entered Hightstown on Aug. 22 and drove under a huge American flag hung over Main Street by the Hightstown Engine Co. No. 1 and East Windsor Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1. The riders passed by the Hightstown firehouse around 2:30 p.m. and members of the department stood by their ladder truck waving to the motorcyclists.
A few minutes later down the road, the riders passed under another flag hanging on the East Windsor and Cranbury border, which was hung by the East Windsor Volunteer Fire Co. No. 2 and Cranbury Volunteer Fire Co., before riding back out onto Route 130.
“There are so many different things that I like about the ride from the opportunity to meet new people, the great work that the foundation does and just doing my part to make sure that the riders of this organization know that Hightstown will never forget,” Mr. Kocher said. 