FREDERICKSBURG, VA (WTXL) -- Everything is in a name and the Police Unity Tour says it all. They are united to honor the ones who gave up everything. Some ride in the name of a friend who they worked alongside. Some ride to honor those they will never get the chance to meet.
Months of grueling training just to be able to bike 250 miles to keep the memory of a fallen officer alive. Everyone has their own reason for being part of the Police Unity Tour. They can’t imagine having to tell their children that mommy is never coming home. They don’t want to think about what would happen if they got the call telling them they would never see their husband again. Broken hearts at the thought of looking into the eyes of a son who just lost his father.
The morning of the first day, riders and supporters gathered in an empty lot in Portsmouth, Virginia. They started with a prayer. Speakers talked about the tough job of being a law enforcement officer and how showing support together is important. One-hundred-seventeen men and women were killed in the line of duty last year. All 117 of them went to work just like they did countless times before. All 117 of them never made it home. It's an officer's worst nightmare, a family's worst nightmare.
An unscheduled announcement was made during the opening ceremony. Two officers from Mississippi were killed in the line of duty overnight. Many in the crowd had already heard the news. Department to department, the blue line is strong. Mark Trexler, a Police Unity Tour chapter president, choked up at reading the names, a lone bagpipe played Amazing grace.
With the sounds of sirens, the riders were off. Everywhere they went, all along the route, they had an audience. People stood on the side of the road and waved. In fact, every where there were people waving. People who had no idea what the Police Unity Tour was, or why there were so many police cars driving down their street, were happy to see the long caravan drive through their town. Mothers stood on the front porches with their children and pointed as the cyclists rode past.
I saw so much support from strangers on just the first day of the ride. I can't imagine that it will be topped in day two.
There are a lot of water and bike repair breaks when the day's goal is over 100 miles.
On every stop, the group was hosted by local departments, churches, stores, and volunteer firefighters. Mary Buxton, a local columnist in Urbanna, Virginia stopped to talk to us about how she was filled with so much emotion as watched the officers ride by.
The first day was a long one for all involved. A 100-mile journey is extra long when you are only going about 18 miles per hour. The threat of rain was following us almost the entire time. The thunderstorm that looked to be brewing never came, at least for today.
We talk a lot about the cyclists of the Police Unity Tour, but there are so many more people involved. This is most evident when riding in the very back of the long caravan of police vehicles that all made the journey. Motorcycle officers from departments in several states drove along side to help close streets. They would zip by and drive a head to stop traffic. You could see them talking with the people who were stopped along the side of the road. Normally when you are in your car a policeman pulls you over, you don’t share kind words. Today, people in traffic seemed to appreciate the officers and all they were doing.
The first day ended around 6:30 p.m. with a quick congratulations for those who rode their first ever 100 miles on a bicycle.
The second day starts at 8 a.m. as they make their way from Tappahannock to Fredericksburg, Virginia. Cyclists are one day closer to meeting the family of those they ride for at the National Law Enforcement Memorial wall in Washington D.C.