NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) – Seventeen men and women representing Southeast Massachusetts are on their way to National Police Week in Washington, DC
After attending the event ten years ago, Albert Silva began recruiting members of the New Bedford Police Department to participate in a four-day, 300-mile bike ride called The Police Unity Tour.
“I walked around these halls asking if anyone wanted to get on this ride and in the end I only had five people to do it,” Albert Silva said.
The Armory honors officers killed in the line of duty. Ten years later, Silva is still riding for outreach, training for months just as they arrive in the nation’s capital.
It comes with challenges.
“The hardest thing is just the time spent on the seat,” he said.
But there is also a nice reward.
“When we walk into the memorial and see all of the survivors, their families, that’s when it becomes special,” he said.
Four years ago, the ride became personal for local police departments in Southeast Massachusetts when Yarmouth Police Sgt. Sean Gannon was shot and killed while serving an arrest warrant.
“He would probably be the first on a bike if he was here, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s riding alongside them,” Denice Gannon said.
Gannon’s mother travels to New Bedford every year to send these officers ahead of their 300-mile journey.
“Every time I see them leave, I have never felt such a source of pride,” Denice Gannon said. “I think there’s a lot of bravery in doing something that hurts your body but is done in such a spirit of love.”
Her son was memorialized at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC and she says anyone who has the opportunity to go should do so.
“It was four years today right after Sean died where I went to this wall, I had no idea it even existed. I ran my hands over my son’s name,” said said Gannon.
This year, New Bedford Sgt. Michael Cassidy’s name will also be added to the wall in Washington, DC
“I lost my husband a year ago to COVID, so I’m doing this in his honor,” Debbie Cassidy said.
Debbie Cassidy lost her husband Michael on April 28, 2021.
“We have to be their for the men and women who 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 is being honored for his service and dedication to Unity Ride.
“It means the world to me and my family that the men and women of this department pushed to have his name there,” Cassidy said.
And Debbie will ride in memory of her husband.
“It’s going to be a roller coaster,” she said. “It’s not about proving myself if I can last the four days, it’s about the meaning behind it, in honor of my husband.”
She says she knows Michael will be there, helping her every mile.
“It was one of his passions, he did it for seven years, so I’m doing it in his honor,” she said.
The group says they’re grateful for all the help they’ve received along the way, including Chris Medieros’ bus donation to Tony’s Auto Body and the City of Wellfleet’s bike trailer.