On the 15th anniversary of September 11, hundreds of police officers from around the country, along their families and their supporters, made an annual pilgrimage to the East Coast to ride in honor of those who died in the line of duty that day. The ride also honors fellow officers who were killed in the line of duty nationwide in the previous year. Now large enough to encompass four days, the ride covers the territory between Washington, D.C., and New York and is known as The Tour de Force. In addition to honoring the memory of fellow officers, it serves as a fundraiser for the families of those killed in the line of duty nationwide.
The ride began in 2002 as a way to honor those who died on Sept. 11 and for the past several years, a team of officers from the Aurora Police Department has participated. The initial ride included just nine cyclists but it has grown to include more than 250 cyclists and more than 40 support teams each year. To date, nearly 100 families have received funds. While some money is donated by corporate sponsors, additional funds are raised by the riders who make the trek each year. The ride includes a number of ceremonies to honor specific officers and their families, many of whom have joined the riders for part or the entirety of the ride.
Colorado’s contingent is composed primarily of officers from the Aurora Police Department, and for the past few years these dedicated public servants have been riding to honor one of their own, Bill Pontious, a career law enforcement officer who had organized teams for the Tour de Force for many years. For the past few years, Keating Wagner has proudly supported this group in its efforts to honor first responders.
Bill, whose story can be seen here, embodied everything that the Tour de Force represents: duty, honor, friendship, and fun. While Bill’s untimely death might otherwise have cast a pall over this year’s event, in his honor this year’s contingent was the larger than ever and those riding in his absence claim to have felt his presence every step of the way.
“The ride will always be different without Bill,” said Mike Holm, a fellow Aurora police officer and longtime colleague of Bill’s who helped him organize the race for years. “He was fun to hang out with.” And while the ride this year was “great” according to Mike, it was difficult to do without his former friend and colleague as part of the group.
The ride this year included 12 Colorado riders along with 3 support people, and the ride began near the Pentagon and included stops in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Edison, New Jersey before arriving in New York City on the 14th of September. To learn more about the Tour de Force or to make a donation, visit their website: http://www.tourdeforceny.com/history.html.
A rider takes a moment to honor those who died on Sept. 11.
Mike Holm poses with Bill Pontious’ sister, Diane.
This year’s riders were 250 strong. They posed at the end of the ride in New York.