News Feature

Run for Richie honors 9/11 victims and NYC’s irrepressible spirit



August 13, 2018 | Rahoul Ghose

images courtesy of the 'run for richie 9/11 motorcycle run

For Paul Jonathan (PJ) Marcel, 9/11 is a time for New Yorkers to unify and remember loved ones lost, to honor emergency services’ sacrifices and the city’s indelible spirit … and to never forget.

To that end, the Howard Beach, Queens father of two and president of Punishers MC New York, pours his heart and soul into a now-annual ride that draws well over 1,000 motorcyclists for ceremonies and an impressive parade of two-wheelers through the heart of NYC.

The ‘Run for Richie’ 9/11 Motorcycle Run honors Richard Allen Pearlman, the youngest first responder lost on Sept. 11, 2001. ‘Richie’, just 18 and a senior member of the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corp (FHVAC), was immortalized on the pages of Newsweek's Extra Edition of America Under Attack, in a photo showing him aiding the injured at Ground Zero.

He headed to the World Trade Center on foot from his job at a law firm, and despite being ordered to return by his employer for safety reasons, Richie remained at the WTC site. He died when the second tower fell.

The photo is particularly poignant for Marcel, as Richie was also his neighbor in Howard Beach.

“The service lost him and an ambulance at the Trade Center,” Marcel, says, adding his own recollections of the day are still vivid.

richard allen pearlman, the youngest first responder lost on 9/11 | image courtesy of the 'run for richie 9/11 motorcycle run
____________________________________________________________________

  Often people say they have heard of the event and most know it. The positive response online is amazing. When the ride returned the last two years I parked my bike and felt completely drained. I went home and slept 13 hours to get up and make the next year’s invite page.  

-- Paul Jonathan (PJ) Marcel, President, Punishers MC New York
____________________________________________________________________

“I was working Queens General Hospital as my family owned a food court. We had different kiosks all over the hospital. I had the TV on and couldn’t believe it. I ran up to the top floor to witness it in its entirety. I called my girlfriend at the time who was at Fordham University and said JUST LISTEN! Get up, leave the class and drive home NOW. Stay away from Manhattan and stay focused! There has been an attack and they will shut the bridges down. LEAVE NOW!”

Marcel, now 38, closed the restaurant and ran home to hook up with the volunteer fire house near his home. But they had already left and relocated to Long Island. He then went to the police department where he had just recently resigned as an auxiliary police officer and the place was a mad house.

“I made my way down there to the site and it was already too late. Thankfully, I wasn’t there when the collapse occurred.”

The ‘Run for Richie’, now in its third year, was conceived after the official commemorative event, from 2002 to 2013, was shelved due to complaints about traffic congestion, mostly in the Washington DC area, where local police were reluctant to block off areas for the 1,200-bike procession. America’s 9/11 Ride went from the Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset, PA, to the Pentagon in Arlington, VA, and finally the World Trade Center in NYC over three days.

“My club (Punishers MC New York) had brought it up that we needed to do something, some kind of ride,” Marcel said, adding he brought the idea to the FHVAC president Alan Wolfe, who thought at the time that it would be impossible to get all the permissions needed. But they went ahead with his blessings.

image courtesy of the 'run for richie 9/11 motorcycle run
____________________________________________________________________

  Local NYPD was eager to help. We all felt a sense of loss that 9/11 was not being remembered … professionals from 9/11 retiring, also some with illnesses, and multiple related deaths from exposure to debris from that day.  

-- Paul Jonathan (PJ) Marcel, President, Punishers MC New York
____________________________________________________________________

“When the ride first started it was the 15th anniversary of 9/11. We started planning for this event in 2014 as it needed a lot of moving parts,” he said. “As we obtained more information, local NYPD was eager to help. We all felt a sense of loss that 9/11 was not being remembered … professionals from 9/11 retiring, also some with illnesses, and multiple related deaths from exposure to debris from that day.”

Marcel added the NYPD Highway Patrol did an amazing job planning the inaugural ride route and partnered with all emergency agencies to keep the day incident free, with more than 1,500 motorcycles participating.

This year’s ride – Sunday, Sept. 9 – starts and ends at the Aquaduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park, Brooklyn, and takes riders for close to two hours through Manhattan to the World Trade Center and back: on the FDR Highway, 59th Street Bridge, Times Square, 42nd Street, 3rd Ave, Long Island Expressway, BQE, and some surprises along the way. It is a fully escorted ride with NYPD, EMS & FIRE, followed by emergency vehicles and tow trucks along the route.

Punishers MC, with close to 168 chapters throughout the world, has delegations from California, New Mexico, Canada, Maine, Texas and Louisiana already confirmed for the 2018 ride.

But the nature of the event and what it means has also brought an unprecedented cooperation from all motorcycle clubs, Marcel said.

“Many different clubs join us. Some clubs that don’t associate with Law Enforcement (LE) clubs arrive without colors on because 9/11 affected them somehow. This is a neutral event.”

“As people gather they get to talk about the good times with whoever they are riding for and why. Even just riding in support of NYC and America. Emotions do set in as the reality of the day’s event is not a motorcycle ride but an attack that occurred not that long ago. Anger isn’t a good word to use. Frustration or loss maybe. But the gathering of people is to unify and remember that day, and loved ones lost. Not just emergency services, everyone.”

All club presidents are free and any club or MC with a multitude of membership in attendance are given their own lane, Marcel added.

2017 'run for richie 9/11 motorcycle run video
____________________________________________________________________

  Emotions do set in as the reality of the day’s event is not a motorcycle ride but an attack that occurred not that long ago. Anger isn’t a good word to use. Frustration or loss maybe. But the gathering of people is to unify and remember that day, and loved ones lost. Not just emergency services, everyone.  

-- Paul Jonathan (PJ) Marcel, President, Punishers MC New York
____________________________________________________________________

Registration for the ride can be done online at nycpunisherslemc.com for $35, though on-site registration is also available for $40. The first 411 registrants will receive a commemorative coin.

Ride proceeds go to benefit the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corp, says Marcel, who’s been a member now for more than 11 years.

The FHVAC relies on local contributions and limited state funding for upkeep, building and vehicle maintenance, and membership supplies. It is a completely volunteer-run organization. Without help or membership the doors would close.

“We train the future of tomorrow with our youth corps squad of over 30 children from ages 14 to 18 to be productive citizens of the world,” Marcel says. “I was 20 when I joined (a volunteer emergency service) and wanted to try to steer my life towards the wellbeing of others.”

Even those not riding on Sept. 9 are welcome to join the opening ceremonies at the Aquaduct Racetrack where there will be food, beverages, a raffle and vendors selling t-shirts and lifestyle accessories.

The ceremony/service will start at center stage at approximately 12:15 PM followed by a prayer. If anyone wishes to say a few words on behalf of family or friends, please contact Marcel at pmarcel@fhvac.org.

Kickstands go up at 1 PM for the ride. About a dozen photographers will be staged at multiple locations along the course taking photos that will be posted on social media (Facebook and Instagram) with the hashtag #nyc911run. Drone footage is also shot during the ride.

Marcel, who spends close to eight hours a day in August and early September planning the ride, has assistance from nearly 20 club members. But more volunteers are always welcome, including the services of any photographers who want to shoot on the day.

“Often people say they have heard of the event and most know it. The positive response online is amazing. When the ride returned the last two years I parked my bike and felt completely drained. I went home and slept 13 hours to get up and make the next year’s invite page.”

His dedication is rewarded with the knowledge that people do remember and honor those lost on 9/11.

Participants can register for the 'Run for Richie' 9/11 Motorcycle Run at: nycpunisherslemc.com. For more on the ride, visit the official event page on Facebook. And, the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps can be found at fhvac.org.

Back to Homepage [+]

Story Comments / Feedback Form