Legion riders accompany World Trade Center piece

PAT FRIDGEN
Greencastle American Legion 373 Patriot Guard riders who escorted a piece of the World Trade Center were, from left: Rich Bishop, Gary Gaskin, Steve Brown, Carlos Mills, Randy Smith in front, Tom Fuller, Luann Sites, Donna Kulpak, Mike Kulpak, Steve Pastore, unidentified, Dale Brunner, unidentified. The fire engine memorializes the 343 men who perished while rescuing 35,000 civilians on Sept. 11, 2001.

Greencastle's Patriot Guard, all members of American Legion Post 373, recently took part in an historic ride to bring a piece of the World Trade Center to Fort Benning, Ga. The Iron and Steel Motorcycle Run took place on Sat., Sept. 12, commemorating the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The Guard left for New York City the morning of Sept. 11 in the wind and rain. The weather normally would have discouraged the crew from traveling, but member Donna Kulpak said the desire to honor a fallen American hero took precedence.

The transport of the steel was coordinated as a fundraiser by the Fire Family Transport Foundation, which helps families of injured, ill or deceased New York City firefighters needing transportation. It was also meant to honor men and women in the United States Army. In particular this venture was taking a section of the North Tower to Georgia in memory of Col. Rick Rescorla. The retired veteran was vice president of security for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, the largest tenant in the WTC. According to published reports, he began evacuating the employees even though the Port Authority had advised everyone to stay put after the first plane struck. He is credited with saving 3,700 lives, and died when he returned to the tower to look for three missing people.

Rescorla's wife Susan was part of the escort bringing the steel to Georgia. It will be placed at the future National Infantry Museum, joining a statue of Rescorla she had commissioned.

Gary Gaskin, the run coordinator for the Legion riders, alerted them to the event. They like to ride for charity and Kulpak recalled his statement, 'If you want your heart jerked out, you should do this.' And they did. Each paid an entry fee to participate.

The Greencastle riders met up with hundreds of other cyclists at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn for a memorable day. At 7 a.m. the journey began. Police accompanied them the entire trip. Escort vehicles included the FDNY Memorial Truck, with the names of the 343 firefighters who died that tragic day. Kulpak said at every overpass fire departments awaited them, offering support, cheers and salutes.

"By the time I got to New Jersey I had tears running," she said.

The entourage crossed Pennsylvania and turned south on I-81. It passed through Greencastle at approximately 2:30 p.m. They stopped in Martinsburg, WV for the night. Tony Everetts, president of the Legion gang, presented a check to the FFTF during that time. Kulpak and her husband Mike then returned home, but many members of the Guard continued on to the end. The Iron and Steel team also made stops at Christianburg, Va. and Spartanburg, SC. The steel was unveiled Sept. 17 in a special ceremony.

Kulpak took many photographs of the ride, including one of Susan Rescorla. "She was very appreciative of what we did for her husband."