ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Just days before marking 16 years since the September 11th terrorist attacks, the Rochester community came together to recognize those who have served.
"We are here on a multitude of events,” said Bill Fuhrmann, a Patriot Guard Rider. “To honor the 343 firefighters that lost their lives during the tower collapse, but also we'd like to support our veterans as much as possible."
Operation Patriot Foundation is an organization founded just after September 11th of 2001 as a thank you to those who've served, such as those in the U.S. Military, firefighters and police. On Saturday, bike groups like the Patriot Guard Riders and others joined them for "Let's Roll,” the Mission 22 Fundraiser. Bikers rode from Charlotte to Brockport and back in an effort to raise money for Veteran Suicide Prevention.
Members say an average of 22 veterans committed suicide every day in 2016. All the proceeds go to the Veterans Outreach Center.
"It doesn't matter what color you are,” said Randy Mantione, vice president of Operation Patriot. “It doesn't matter if you came from a small town in the Midwest, or from Rochester, New York. It's a problem."
For one firefighter, the causes of both suicide prevention, and 9/11 remembrance hit close to home. One captain of the Webster Fire Department remembers doing his part at ground zero in the aftermath of the twin tower collapse.
"I was here in Webster, when the planes hit the towers, and a few days later I went down with Monroe Ambulance, and the crew I was with, we were medics in the hot zone for 24 hours," said Capt. Ahmed Mustafa, Webster Fire Department. "In some cases, unlike a soldier, whom a tragedy might be with a stranger, these are people in our community, family friends and neighbors, and the incidences of PTSD in that population of first responders, is something we need to address too. Drug abuse, alcoholism, inability to keep jobs, it's an everyday occurrence. Every holiday season, we lose a paramedic friend."
But it's because of the dedication and hard work of veterans, first responders like Ahmed, and the more than 300 bikers who came to support them, that make the United States, such a special place worth protecting.