First responder moved by Sept. 11 tribute ride

Anthony Austin (left) was one of the first responders when the World Trade Center was attacked in 1993 and 2001. (WTOP Photo/Max Smith)

Max Smith, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – America’s 9/11 Ride wraps up Sunday in New York, and one rider’s favorite experience on the trip included the flag waving crowds in the D.C. area.

Anthony Austin worked 22 years as a New York City fireman. He responded to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. He was also one of the first responders on scene for the World Trade Center bombing in 1993.

“It brings me back to that day 11 years ago when the towers came down, so it’s hard for me to even talk about it because I see all the pictures and all the friends that I lost and I get choked up about it,” he says before starting out from the Pentagon Saturday morning.

This is his second year taking part in the annual ride, which visits the Flight 93 memorial in Pennsylvania, the Pentagon Memorial in Virginia and the World Trade Center site in New York.

“Not only is this ride therapeutic for me … but it’s helped me become a better rider,” he says.

He only started riding a motorcycle when he retired from the fire department about four years ago.

“This ride is becoming even closer to me especially after last year, the [10th] anniversary ride,” Austin says. “I saw the magnitude and all the people that came out who really [showed] we will never forget all the things that you firemen and all the first responders did for us.”

This year, the native New Yorker was awestruck by the turnout in Leesburg, Va.

“To see small town America come out and wave the flag and say ‘We still have pride. We still will never forget’ – little kids and old people, veterans out there – that’s touching,” he says. “I’m telling you, I almost thought all that was gone.”

He says this outpouring is different than what he sees every day at home.

“[New Yorkers] still remember [Sept.11], but they don’t remember like you saw going through Leesburg,” he says. “That blew me away … It felt good. It really did.”

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