Bryan Haeffele photos
It started with a rumble, then what sounded like a siren off in the distance. Then a Wilton police car, driven by Lt. Rob Cipolla, came into view followed by a phalanx of police motorcycles driven in formation.
Then, the throttles opened, the horns sounded and thousands upon thousands of bikers followed, forming the miles-long CT United Ride on Sunday Sept. 11. It is the largest fund-raiser for both fire and law enforcement in Connecticut.
For some 40 minutes the motorcade roared up Route 7. From it’s start in Norwalk it entered Wilton via Westport Road, and at the intersection with Route 7 cars lined up to drive north had a very long wait. The bikers made their way to Georgetown, where they turned to head into Redding and then on to the ride’s end in Bridgeport.
As they traveled north, the bikers passed by a huge American flag hanging from a bucket truck. It was set up by KTI Utility Construction of Wilton, owned by members of the Knapp family of Redding, which made an afternoon of it tailgating in front of the Wilton High School tennis courts.
“Driving under the massive American flag that was waving in the wind over Route 7 in the area of the high school was pretty special,” Cipolla said. “This is what it is all about, paying tribute to those whowere lost on 9/11 and those who have fought, continue to fight, and make personal sacrifice for the very freedoms our flag represents.”
“It’s a tribute to Sept. 11 and the ride,” Lydia Knapp said of the flag. Her daughter Gina is an Army captain at Fort Sill, Okla. “It’s an honor. We do this for the cause, for our troops, for those who lost their lives and for their families.”
The flag measures 35 feet by 65 feet and hangs from a 155-foot bucket truck, said Nicholas Knapp. When asked why, he answered, “Why not? It’s America!”
The first year, he explained, “we had a 20-by-40-foot flag, but it looked like a postage stamp. My grandmother, Elizabeth Knapp, purchased the bigger flag. She said she’d buy it if we’d use it.”
And use it they did. The flag, draped against a brilliant blue sky, got almost as much attention as the motorcycle ride. Drivers in the southbound lane of Route 7 slowed down to take photos and some motorcyclists could be seen doing the same.
From touring bikes to tooling around bikes, tricked out to modest, there were Harleys, Hondas, Suzukis, and Yamahas, blue, black, silver, green, orange, red and yellow. Most were two-wheelers but there were lots of three-wheelers as well.
Quite a few spectators lined that portion of Route 7, there with their children and dogs, sitting on towels and lawn chairs or standing taking pictures, waving and flashing peace signs with the riders.
Among them was Sherry C. Norris and her daughter Madison, who were from Manchester. They came for Norris’ son’s soccer game. She videoed part of the ride on her cellphone.
“I left my son’s soccer game to watch it,” she said, heading back to the field. It was something, she said, she felt she had to see.
Click here to view the photos on Facebook.