Annual ride honors heroes fallen on duty
EAGLE COUNTY — Dan Flores brought a tow truck to Wednesday’s annual Ride in Remembrance. He nearly became a statistic last winter.
Flores, who drives for West Vail Shell, was responding to an accident on Vail Pass — in a snowstorm, of course — when an inattentive driver slammed into his truck.
“If I hadn’t been in a truck, I’d have been dead,” Flores said.
As someone who works in dangerous conditions at all hours, Flores feels a kinship with the police officers, firefighters and other emergency service workers who participate every year in the county’s Ride in Remembrance, a roughly mile-long procession of emergency vehicles, motorcycles and classic cars that travels from Edwards to Vail. The ride ends at Donovan Pavilion in Vail with a ceremony to honor those who have died in the line of duty.
Both civilians and those in uniform have a keen understanding of the risks facing emergency service people.
Pete Thompson is an active member of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars organization and a combat veteran. Thompson had been told the ride doesn’t go very fast, so this year he brought his small Honda dirt bike.
Thompson said there exists a bond between veterans and those in the emergency services professions. Vail Police Officer Luke Causey agreed.
“What we do means something,” Causey said. “Being the good guys means we need to support each other.”
That support was unanimous Wednesday. Every emergency service agency in the valley sent vehicles and people. Officers blocked traffic for the procession, and everyone in uniform standing along the route stood at attention as the long line of vehicles passed by.
Chance for recognition
The procession also heard cheers and waves from school kids. A group of Red Sandstone Elementary School students stood on Vail’s pedestrian overpass to cheer for the riders, and all kids were greeted with honks, waves, siren blasts and the occasional engine roar from one of the motorcyclists in the group.
Recognition also came during the reception that took place after the ride.
Vail Police Officer Ryan Cunningham died in the line of duty in May of 2001. His family has come to the ride for most of the 15 years since. Family members this year came to Vail from Oklahoma, prompting Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger to remark, “I’m glad you were able to dodge all the tornadoes.”
Every year, the names of the fallen are read, followed by a single toll of a bell that signifies that person’s “end of watch.” It’s a somber moment, but there are other moments when there is encouragement for those who remain.
This year, Eagle River Fire Protection District Chief Karl Bauer provided thoughts about service, including the Bible story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples in the hours before his crucifixion.
That selfless act, Bauer said, “is the true lineage of our profession.”
That profession is one of honor, Bauer said.
“We’re servants — symbols of man’s humanity to man,” he said.
After a lunch of burgers and hot dogs — provided by the local Masonic Lodge — police officers, firefighters and ambulance crew members lingered together, talking shop. They lingered even as they returned to duty, not quite ready to release the kind of embrace they’d shared for a morning, and hoping, as Henninger said, that the list doesn’t grow in the year to come.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.