SANTEE, Calif — Two Santee firefighter-paramedics are in for the ride of their lives.
Jesse Fornier and Aaron Huisman will join 22 other firefighters, police and military members from the U.S. and Australia in the Tour of Duty ride – traversing the United States and covering about 3,000 miles.
“Firefighters, cops and military, we don’t usually try to take the easy way out,” Huisman said. “If it’s going to be difficult, it sort of attracts us to it. The more difficult the better. Especially for the cause, what the ride is for. People have paid the ultimate sacrifice, so for us to memorialize that, we got the easy part.”
The cyclists will leave from the USS Midway on the morning of August 12th and they plan to arrive in New York City on September 10th, one day before the 11th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.
The ride aims to demonstrate admiration and respect for public safety personnel and raise money for the Wounded Warriors project and the New York Police and Fire Widows.
“Nine-eleven was such a big part of my life and why I became a firefighter,” Fornier said. “Watching those firefighters on that day, and their bravery and what they did for the brothers, and the weeks after that they were on the rubble, that’s why I became a firefighter. To give back to them and honor them and to honor the people who lost their lives that day.”
The 29-year-old Fournier has worked for Santee Fire Department for 5-plus years and the 34-year-old Huisman for 8 years. In addition to their rigorous training on the job, they both belong to the San Diego Firefighters Endurance Sports team where they have each completed an Ironman triathlon and a 500-mile bike ride. But they admit that they have never faced anything like a cross country ride, during one of the hottest summers on record.
“I’m sure there are going to be hard days when I want to give up,” Fornier said. “But I just think of the people who lost their lives and who keep sacrificing for us day in and day out.”
And when they arrive in New York City, they expect something special.
“I think it’s going to be something we’ll never forget that’s for sure,” Huisman said.
That’s why their riding across the country – to never forget.