On Sept. 8, three police officers from Secaucus will embark on a four-day bike ride in the Tour de Force as part of a group of 200 participants from all across the United States and Canada to commemorate the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
Sergeant Fran Cotter, Officer Rod Aninipot, and Sergeant Detective Carlos Goyenechea, who together participated in the cycling event last year, will ride to honor the victims of 9/11 and to raise funds to benefit the families of police officers who have been killed in the line of duty.
Remembering the lost
“No money in the world can replace lost loved ones,” said Goyenechea. “At least they know someone is remembering then and thinking of them.”
Secaucus lost six people who either grew up or lived in the town during the attack on the World Trade Center.
“9/11 is 9/11 to us,” said Goyenechea. “We were all involved…It is close to your heart.”
He was on duty on Meadowlands Parkway when he saw one of the towers smoking. He said he felt “a little bit of everything” that day from disbelief to anger.
Aninipot was also working that day. He said that he had no idea it was a terrorist attack at first and thought that the fire at the World Trade Center was normal until he got the call to assist the Port Authority. He was dispatched along with two other officers to help assist them at the Lincoln Tunnel where they were blocking cars from entering into New York City.
“Everyone here rides with heart.” – Rod Aninipot
Following the attacks, Goyenechea connected with an inspector from the NYPD and the department and municipality funneled supplies as needed.
“You have the realization that you have to do something or try to do something,” said Goyenechea.
Both officers had personal connections to people who lost their lives on Sept. 11. Aninipot lost his friend Judy Fernandez during the 9/11 attacks. She worked for Cantor Fitzgerald in the North Tower. Goyenechea lost a friend from high school but he said that his reason for riding in the Tour de Force is for his friend and others.
“It is more so because of everybody who was killed there,” said Goyenechea.
Riding with passion
“Everyone here rides with heart,” said Aninipot.
The Tour de Force ride was started by the New York Police Department in 2002. Originally, eight officers rode from ground zero to the Pentagon.
“It was overwhelming,” said Aninipot, who participated in the ride last year. “I got to meet a lot of great people from different [police] departments from all over the country.”
This year the riders will start off from the 9/11 memorial in Boston and ride down to the World Trade Center site for a total of 270 miles.
“You basically go on your personal pace,” said Aninipot. While the Secaucus officers may split up during the tour, they will ride together at the beginning and at the end.
This is Fran Cotter’s sixth year in the tour.
“When you are on a bicycle you get to see the different towns that you ride through and you get a different perspective,” said Aninipot. He said that along the tour at certain rest stops towns welcome the cyclists with open arms and show appreciation for the cause.
Training for the tour
The officers began training indoors during the winter and moved outdoors with the warmer weather.
“The more miles you do and the more often, it comes more naturally,” said Goyenechea.
He gets up at 5:30 a.m. to ride several days during the week. At times he’ll bike four to five hours.
Goyenechea cycled when he served in the 82nd Airborne Division in the Army in 85 and 91. He served during Desert Storm. He said that he picked up cycling again two years ago and appreciated the peace of mind the activity offers.
Aninipot is no stranger to bike tours. He cycled in rides like the KMS bike tour and the Five Boro Tour in Manhattan. He enjoys riding on 9W and does about 40 to 50 miles per ride.
“It is very challenging because you need to find the time and you really need to dedicate yourself to the training,” said Aninipot. “If you don’t train you are only go to hurt yourself.”
The officers each have to raise $1,000. For more information or to donate, visit: http://www.tourdeforceny.com/home.html. Donors can select the Secaucus officers’ names from a drop down menu.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at email@example.com.