Wind & Fire Harley club makes down to earth visit
About 50 Harley riders rumbled into Glenwood Springs Thursday, yet at one point not a sound could be heard from them.Standing at the sobering site of the Storm King 14 memorial at Two Rivers Park, firefighter-motorcyclists on the Sept. 11 memorial ride had another reason to bow their heads in silence.These members of the Wind & Fire Harley club, which has more than 2,000 members internationally, had lost one of their own.The same day that bikers roared into Glenwood Springs, a service was held for Ray Feasel, a retired volunteer Arvada firefighter who was struck and killed in Newark, N.J., at the start of the Ride to Remember 2002.The ride is bringing Wind & Fire members from across the country to Colorado Springs for the International Association of Fire Fighters’ annual Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial Ceremony on Saturday.On average, the ceremony honors about 100 firefighters killed each year in the line of duty. This year, however, more than 400 will be honored, including 343 killed at the World Trade Center Sept. 11, 2001.Feasel won’t be among the honored, but his loss weighed heavily on the hearts of the bikers who stopped in Glenwood Springs Thursday.”He wasn’t exactly killed in the line of duty, but I think he was,” said Jerry DeLisle, an Aurora firefighter.Feasel was working as a road guard for Wind & Fire on the Ride to Remember when he was struck and killed by a shuttle bus.Today was his wedding anniversary, so his wife scheduled the memorial for Thursday, although DeLisle and other biker friends already were committed to the Ride to Remember. DeLisle chose instead to remember Feasel at the Storm King memorial.”To stand here on this hallowed ground, if you would, and also talk about Ray is really a privilege,” said DeLisle.Glenwood Springs Fire Chief Mike Piper empathized with DeLisle. He described for the riders how 14 firefighters died on Storm King in 1994, and paid tribute to the New York firefighters killed a year ago Sept. 11, and to Feasel.”We stand together,” Piper said.
`A special spot’East Coast participants in the Ride to Remember met at the World Trade Center in New York City Sept. 11 before heading west. West Coast participants started riding Sunday, converging on Green River, Utah, before heading east to Colorado Springs via Glenwood Springs.They pulled in shortly before noon, many of them wearing red, white and blue bandannas and sporting American flags on their machines.Some wore Fire Department of New York City patches on their jackets, or “911/343” patches in memory of their fallen comrades.The riders enjoyed lunch at the Glenwood Springs Community Center courtesy of the Glenwood Springs Fire Department, Kum & Go in West Glenwood, Aspen Valley Harley-Davidson and Sysco.Club members appreciated the hospitality they received in Glenwood Springs. John Robbins, the club’s international president, called it “a special spot.”Most club members seemed familiar with the Storm King deaths. They also heard the stories of the June 8 Coal Seam Fire that destroyed 29 homes in the Glenwood area.Robbins and other Californians used to wildfire troubles in their state said this year was different.”It felt like all of Colorado was on fire. Usually it’s us,” said Nancy Coleman, who is riding with her husband, Randy, a Santa Barbara County firefighter.Robbins said he stopped in Glenwood Springs last year on another ride. They usually do a couple of benefit rides a year, often to benefit burn victims. “We see them during an emergency, and it’s neat to help them afterward,” said Robbins.
As many as 500 club members are expected to arrive in Colorado Springs Saturday, joining thousands of other firefighters at the memorial service. More than 1,000 family members of fallen firefighters, half of them from New York City, also are expected to attend.And nearly 500 names of firefighters and paramedics who died in service to others will be added to a wall of honor there.As if the Ride to Remember 2002 wasn’t already emotionally charged enough, “Now, sadly because of Ray, it has a double meaning,” said Robbins.DeLisle had worked and ridden with Feasel for years. “He loved two things. He loved his motorcycle, and he loved working for the fire department,” DeLisle remembered.DeLisle said two other Colorado Wind & Fire members were injured while biking recently.”We’ve taken some pretty good hits, so we’d appreciate a thought in our favor,” he said.As he walked away, California firefighter Mike Lopez caught up and threw an arm around DeLisle in support.Then they and fellow club members returned to their Harleys and roared away.
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Hanging Lake will once again be taking visitors starting May 1.