The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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June 21, 2013

Ground Zero responder visits Shanksville

SHANKSVILLE — Rob Cerchero spent three weeks at Ground Zero.

In the harrowing days following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the former New York City Police Department member and other officers dug through the Twin Towers’ debris, desperately hoping to find survivors. It was an emotionally and physically draining experience. “It’s not really anything you want to talk about,” said Cerchero.

Unfortunately, the search involved much more recovery than rescue.

“When we were there, we thought there were people there,” said Cerchero, who retired from the NYPD in 2004. “We didn’t know the buildings pancaked. We thought there’d be people trapped.”

Until Friday, the Brooklyn resident had never been to any other sites associated with 9/11.

So, along with approximately 100 other riders, he participated in Thunder in the Valley’s motorcycle run from Greenhouse Park to the Flight 93 National Memorial. The field in Somerset County is the site where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed after passengers fought back against al-Qaida highjackers, who likely intended to slam the plane into a Washington, D.C., target.

“I feel a connection to this,” said Cerchero. “Those people had balls. There’s no doubt about it. You can’t ask for any more patriotic thing than doing what they did. It’s fantastic, a lot more than what I did. It’s great.”

The ride was sponsored by the Alliance of Bikers Aimed Toward Education.

“It lets people have a good time and then have a ride to come out here and pay good respect to the people who lost their lives out here,” said Jim Kukura, Somerset County ABATE president.

Another ride to the memorial is scheduled to be held today.

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