For the fifth straight year, the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps will honor Richard Allen Pearlman with its Run for Richie 9/11 Memorial Motorcycle Ride saluting the youngest first responder killed during the attacks on the World Trade Center.
In years past, thousands of motorcyclists would gather at Aqueduct Raceway before following hundreds of emergency vehicles filled with 9/11 first responders on a convoy thundering its way through Queens on the way to Ground Zero.
This year, the Run for Richie will be completely different due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers said this year there will be no gathering at Aqueduct, no ceremony, no emergency vehicles, no NYPD escort, no helicopters or fighter jets flying overhead, and no FDNY draping flags along the route.
“We can’t ride together in the masses but we can meet by WTC to continue our mission, keeping our promise, keeping our promise,” the Run’s Eventbrite page says. “We will pay our respects in downtown Manhattan on 9/13, 9-6 p.m., remembering a way of life before 9/11, cherishing memories as we unified after 9/11/01.”
One longtime supporter, however, is wishing the Run for Richie took this year off: Richie’s mother, Dorie Pearlman.
“I don’t agree with them going ahead with the Run for Richie this year because of the COVID threat,” Pearlman said. “For them to risk their lives would trouble my son. God love them for doing it, but I still worry that they’re going through with this during this season of COVID.”
Jacek Mystkowski of the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps said the organization canceled the event due to the restrictions but is encouraging participants to make the run on their own.
“We are doing it in spirit because we couldn’t get the proper permits this year,” Mystowski said. “We are instead asking individuals to ride the route on their own from their own homes, observing all proper traffic laws, and meet up at Ground Zero. We did get permission to set up a table and distribute the commemorative coin to whoever donated and hopefully next year we’ll be back to normal for the 20th anniversary 9/11 observance.”
Richie Pearlman was an 18-year-old from Howard Beach who served as a dispatcher for the Forest Hills Ambulance Corps. He was working for a law firm that summer as a messenger and found himself delivering a package at One Police Plaza when the attacks occurred.
Pearlman ran to the scene and began helping survivors escape the towers. He was inside one of the towers helping a heart attack victim when he was killed in the collapse. His body was found in the wreckage of Ground Zero a week later.
“The Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps and the Boy Scouts were everything to my son, they were his life,” Pearlman said. “My son was the kind that would give his life for anyone and that is why he was in the World Trade Center, to begin with. He loved the Corps and this was going to be his future as a paramedic. That was his thing, always helping people.”
The Corps welcomes all sports bikes both foreign and domestic, trikes, sidecars, choppers, home-made bikes, and anything that would require a motorcycle license. Organizers say all New York state health mandated protocols will be observed and masks of face coverings are required.
“I would never badmouth the Corps and I’ve been a supporter of the Run for Richie for years,” Pearlman said. “I’m just worried about the participants’ health and I know my son would be worried, too.”