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9/11 American Challenge: A Journey of the Human Spirit

Lynn Bigelow, manager of the New Lenox AthletiCo branch, raised money for wounded veterans by riding a bike from Ground Zero in New York to the Pentagon in DC. She shares photos and memories from the inspiring trip.

Editor's note: In remembrance of 9/11’s tenth anniversary, New Lenox manager Lynn Bigelow participated in the 9/11 American Challenge, an eight-day, 530-mile bike ride that raises money for wounded veterans. She shares her journey with us:

By Lynn Bigelow

The journey has come to end—a journey that began on 9/11 at Liberty Park and ended on Sept 18 at the Pentagon, a culmination of 530 miles on a bike along with 350+ riders, civilians and veterans riding side by side to raise financial assistance to meet the rehabilitation needs of our wounded veterans. 

This American Challenge took us through some of the most historic sites in our country while commemorating the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on American soil: Philadelphia, Valley Forge, Gettysburg, Shanksville, PA (where Flight 93 crashed) and the Pentagon in Washington, DC.

I would like to extend a huge thank you to the Experience Triathlon team for your support, both financial and emotional. I could not have done this without you.

Many of my friends and family have asked, “Why did I do this?”  It’s not like I had any direct connection to 9/11. While I give financially to veteran causes (USO, Operation Military Embrace), this was my way of putting my heart and soul into a cause, physically showing our veterans my support. 

Being a triathlete, the physical challenge was appealing as well. This ride pushed my physical and mental limits as I achieved numerous firsts:

  • First bike ride of this duration (8-days, 530 miles)
  • First time I rode more than 70 miles on consecutive days
  • First time I biked with elevation changes of close to 7,700 ft (being from Illinois, I can attest this last achievement was huge for me!)

However, at a much deeper level, I was missing something. Politically speaking, I am a conservative. Actually, I’m pretty much conservative in most areas, even down to my love of vanilla ice cream! 

While I do not agree with our current administration, I have become cynical and almost jaded regarding our country.  “Are there any patriots left?” “Have we forgotten about our Founding Fathers, the Constitution and Christian values which this republic was founded?”

I have grown tired of hearing our Commander in-Chief apologize for this great country.  Our soldiers deserve better and frankly, so do We the People!

What I learned on my 8-day journey:

There are only two who have died willingly for the American people.

Jesus Christ and the American Soldier. These brave men and women willingly don the uniform and go into harms’ way to protect our freedoms. 

They have given their lives, their limbs, their mental state, and their souls. They have seen what many of us pray we will never see. We thought the sight of people jumping from the World Trade Towers was horrific? 

Imagine being in a foreign land where bombs are strapped to women and children, where buildings are wired with explosives and every step you take could be your last.  I thank God everyday for our soldiers as they are paying the ultimate price for our freedom.

The American Spirit is alive and well!

Trekking through the small towns of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and DC, I could visibly see the patriotism on the faces of Americans: men, women, and children lining the streets, waving the American flag and cheering us on, shouting, “USA, USA!” 

Those people who greeted us at every American Legion post along our path brought me to tears every time. Thank you for rekindling my faith in the American people and reminding me that the American Spirit still flourishes.

On the last day of our journey, Ride 2 Recovery gave us a survey to complete and one of the questions was, “In one word, how would you describe your ride?” 

I originally wrote, “inspiring”.  However, after much reflection, that didn’t seem fitting. I would say, “re-inspiring.”

Thank you to Ride 2 Recovery for your existence and commitment to making a difference in the lives of our healing heroes and allowing me to participate in such an awesome event.

Thank you to our soldiers who make the ultimate sacrifice so the rest of us may enjoy our freedoms.

For everyone reading this, please thank a soldier, a firefighter, a police officer. Thank those who stand in harm's way so the rest of us don’t have to. God Bless the USA!

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