NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — Seventeen men and women representing Southeastern Massachusetts are on their way to National Police Week in Washington, D.C.
After attending the event ten years ago, Albert Silva began recruiting members of the New Bedford Police Department to take part in a four day, 300 mile bike ride called The Police Unity Tour.
“I walked around these halls asking if anyone wanted to ride in this ride and in the end I only got five people to do it,” Albert Silva said.
The ride honors officers killed in the line of duty. Ten years later, Silva is still riding for awareness, training for months on end, just for that moment they arrive in the nation’s capital.
It comes with challenges.
“The hard part is just time on the seat,” he said.
But there’s also great reward.
“When we ride into the memorial and see all of the survivors the families their that’s when it becomes special,” he said.
Four years ago, the ride became personal for local police departments in Southeastern Massachusetts when Yarmouth Police Sgt. Sean Gannon was shot and killed while serving an arrest warrant.
“He would probably the first one on a bike if he was here there’s no doubt in my mind he’s riding alongside with them,” Denice Gannon said.
Gannon’s mother makes her way to New Bedford every year to send off those officers before their 300 mile trip.
“Every time I see them leave I’ve never felt such a source of pride,” Denice Gannon said. “I think there’s a great deal of valor for doing something that hurts your body but is done in such loving spirit.”
Her son was memorialized at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. and she says that anyone who gets the opportunity to go, should.
“It was four years today right after Sean died where I went to that wall, I had no idea it even existed. I ran my hands over my son’s name,” Gannon said.
This year, New Bedford Sgt. Michael Cassidy’s name will also be added to the wall in Washington, D.C.
“I lost my husband a year ago to COVID, so I’m doing it in honor of him,” Debbie Cassidy said.
Debbie Cassidy lost her husband Michael on April 28, 2021.
“We need to be their for the men and women that put their lives on the line,” Cassidy said.
Michael rode seven times in honor of his fallen brothers and sisters in arms. This year, he’s being honored for his service and dedication to the Unity Ride.
“It means the world to me and my family that the men and women in this department pushed to have his name there,” Cassidy said.
And Debbie will riding in her husband’s memory.
“It’s going to be a rollercoaster,” she said. “This isn’t about proving to myself if I can make it the four days, its about the meaning behind it, in honor of my husband.”
She says she knows Michael will be there, helping her through each and every mile.
“This was one of his passions, he did it for seven years, so I’m doing it in honor of him,” she said.
The group says they are thankful for all the help they’ve received along the way, including the donation of the bus from Chris Medieros at Tony’s Auto Body and the bike trailer from the town of Wellfleet.