9/11 biker tribute

Bikers pay tribute to the victims of the 9/11 terroist attacks on Friday during a annual 9/11 ride on Front Street. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

Ketchikan rumbled with the engines of motorcycles, emergency motor vehicles and fast cars Friday evening in a parade to honor those who died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The sixth annual parade, organized by the nonprofit group Ketchikan Biker Chicks 907, was attended by representatives from the car enthusiast group Ketchikan Kruzers; the Ketchikan Police Department; the North and South Tongass Volunteer Fire Departments; the Ketchikan Harley Riders and the Widows Sons, a Freemason group of motorcycle enthusiasts. Independent motorcycle enthusiasts also joined the parade at the invitation of the organizers.

The parade started at the Community Connections parking lot, threaded through town then turned around at the Ketchikan International Airport parking lot to proceed back through town and land at the American Legion Post 3 building downtown for a free community barbecue.

As attendees gathered, chatting about their cars and bikes and reminiscing about adventures together, members of the Ketchikan Biker Chicks 907 talked about their organization.

Biker Chicks member DeAnn Minnillo said, “About five, six years ago or so, we became — a group of girls who wanted to ride, learn how to ride, ride better, that kind of stuff, and we all got together and formed this umbrella — Ketchikan Biker Chicks. And then we felt like we needed to do more and give back, and it just makes sense to do this.”

Other Biker Chicks members are president Dee Wright, treasurer Bonnie Kristovich, Heather Athorp and Kathy Alguire.

Normally, Minnillo said, the event serves as a fundraiser, but with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the community this year, they felt it wasn’t the right time to ask for money. Traditionally, the money earned goes to various first responder organizations.

Minnillo said she’s been riding motorcycles for about 20 years. She first was hooked when she traveled with her U.S. Forest Service employee dad to Afognak, where at his work site she found a dirt bike to ride.

“After I ran it into the creek a few times, I figured it out,” she said, laughing.

Attendees Curtis and Ann Graham described their motivation for attending the event, riding together on one of their four motorcycles.

Ann Graham explained, “I work for the police department but I’m a military family, and 9/11 has always been very special. My husband was in the Air Force. My dad was in the Marine Corps. On 9/11, my son was just a baby, and it was one of those life experiences that you’ll never forget, and we like our bikes, so this is a great experience.”

Sean Crocker, also attending as a motorcycle rider said he joined the event  “just to show my support remembering the tragic events from 19 years ago, pay my respects and it’s great to see that the community around here still remembers and still wants to show respect for it.”

Krissy McKenney, who was attending the event for the first time on her motorcycle, said she attended because “our neighbor Dave invited us and this is for a good cause — representing a good memorial.”

Gregg Wilks said he has ridden his motorcycle in the parade before, said he participates “to keep it alive, the whole thing, 9/11, people forget about it.”

He also mentioned that he was glad to see so many people attending.

Motorcycle rider Dave Henderson said that as a member of Ketchikan Harley Riders,

participating seemed only right.

“It’s in remembrance of 9/11 and our club is always rather patriotic, I guess I’d say, and we like seeing these kinds of events and support them,” he said.

Ketchikan Kruzers member Steve Phillips joined the event in his AC Cobra convertible.

He said he came at the invitation of Ketchikan Kruzers president Giovanna Trentanelli-Webb, but explained his deeper motivation.

“9/11’s 9/11. You lose 343 firefighters, it’s …that’ll never go away,” he said of the loss of firefighter lives on Sept. 11, 2001.

Ketchikan Biker Chicks 907 president Wright, who arrived at the parade start in her German Ural motorcycle with a side car, expanded on fellow group member Minnillo’s explanation of the group’s motivation to start the event.

“A lot of us have friends and family that are volunteers and firefighters and police officers, and we just realized, ‘you know, nobody does anything.’ At that time, nobody was doing anything in Ketchikan, and it was like, ‘you know this is something’ — looking for something that we could represent and be proud of doing and something that we’d want to be continuing to be doing throughout the years. All of our members were definitely willing to take this on,” she said.

She added, “It means a lot to us this year even more, just because of everything that’s going on and it’s the community. I had people reaching out to me, asking if we were going to do something this year, because it just felt like, everybody wanted something.”

She said that an added motivation was the group members’ support for police and other first responders.

“All of our group, we’re totally behind the blue, and we’re totally behind the firefighters,” she said.

President of Ketchikan Harley Riders Jim Amos also spoke of the motivation of his group’s members to participate in the parade as well as other fundraisers that organization holds.

 “What we do is, we have one thing we do,” he explained. “We have a toy store every year and we give away thousands and thousands of dollars worth of toys to kids, no questions asked, and that’s what this is all about. All of the fundraising and everything we do goes to that.”

Shauna Lee, who graced the start of the parade by standing in a fire truck’s doorway to sing the National Anthem, also shared her motivation for participating in events memorializing the 9/11 disaster from the very first year.

“My husband at the time was a firefighter and my kids were little and they were freaked out that firemen could die because they didn’t know that,” she said.

Ed Clayton, a member of the Widows Sons, a Freemason organization of motorcycle enthusiasts, stated his reason for participating in the parade.

 “It’s 9/11. People don’t need to forget that,” he said. “Not just the people that died, but you know you have first responders that died, and you got first responders still dying from the fallout from the dust and everything else.”

As Erik Bolshakoff and his wife Carrie Bolshakoff headed to their motorcycle to rumble off with the other vehicles, he shared his memory of when he heard of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

“I know what happened on 9/11 and I was a soldier on 9/11,” he recalled. He said he was an Army National Guardsman working in Anchorage to pave the Glenallen Highway. He thought he’d have to leave immediately to deploy with his unit, but was able to stay on the job.

“Our country’s awesome,” he declared as they strode to join their fellow community members in riding to honor the patriots of 9/11.