Thousands of motorcyclists rode to Randolph on Saturday to honor the seven bikers killed in a June crash there. NHPR’s Sarah Gibson talked to some of those motorcyclists before they embarked from Laconia.
The “Ride for the Fallen 7” began in Laconia and travelled up I-93, ending at The Inn at Bowman for a memorial service near the site of the crash.
An arrea the size of a football field couldn't hold the estimated 4,500 bikers who came out for the ride. There were license plates from as far away as Florida and California.
Dave Gingrass rode in from Derry.
"We kind of think this is going to be part of New Hampshire history - one of the biggest rides ever in New Hampshire. That's why we came, and I'm also a veteran."
Most of the victims of the crash were Marine Corps veterans, and part of the Jarhead bikers' club.
The idea for the ride began when Brian Desimone of Derry posted on Facebook that he and a friend who had survived the crash were planning a memorial ride on Desimone’s 46th birthday.
“I just said ‘Let me know if you want to come.' And before you knew it we had 3,000 motorcycles,” he said.
Officials estimate the ride had around 3,000 motorcycles with a total of 4,500 riders.
Waiting in a field that had become the memorial ride's staging grounds, Paul Sharp, of Berlin, said it was the biggest memorial ride he’d seen in his 54 years of riding. Sharp said the whole biker and veteran community felt the loss of the bikers.
“We’re all brothers. It happens to one brother; it happens to every brother, so everybody shows up,” he said.
Tony Cardoza, of Meredith, stood under a tent with volunteers selling patches and accepting donations for family members of victims of the Randolph crash.
Cardoza knew three of the victims from charity rides and other volunteer efforts.
“We all shared the same concerns and tried to help each other out,” he said. “We raise money for veterans coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq, try to support their families, and pay it forward.”
Rick Smith, also of Meredith, stood in an orange vest waving bikers through to parking spots in the field. He had been directing traffic for four hours.
After recent revelations that the driver who killed the bikers should have lost his Massachusetts license because of a DUI, Smith hopes the tragedy will force officials to pay more attention.
“It’s bad government that led to it,” he said. “The driver shouldn’t even have been on the road. When he crossed over, the bikes didn’t have any place to go.”
After the Star-Spangled banner, Marine Corps song, and a prayer, Smith and other volunteers started directing participants to mount their bikes.
At around noon, the ride began amidst cheers and horns.
The New Hampshire State Police and Department of Transportation, which helped coordinate the traffic, reported no accidents despite the crowds.
Brian Desimone, the organizer, is hoping to make the memorial ride an annual event.
“We just had 10 days to plan it,” he said. “Imagine if we had a whole year.”