Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bicycle Messengers and 9/11

I was a hotshot NYC bicycle messenger back in the 80's and managed to make a career out of it for the past 30 years. After years on the road I started my own company and have been working it from the inside out. With 75 riders on the streets of New York , I got the City's news on the spot as it happened or within minutes! It was like having my own team of newspaper reporters!  This story comes from my long time friend and great cyclist 
John Harris.
We've been working together since the 80's
 Born To Run Couriers
That's me in the middle and
 John Harris 
white pants and striped shirt way back in 1982?

Great stories - and now I can share them via my blog  
Urban Mobility Project.
An especially poignant one from September 11th, 2001:

            My life on a bike
            I remember that I could ride a bike by the time I was six years old and I haven’t stopped riding since.  I think I can say that I have probably spent years of my life sitting on bicycles.  I define myself as an urban nomad, kind of a Bedouin from Brooklyn.  I don’t expect anything to stop me from riding my bike except incapacity or death, but as long as I am breathing, I will ride bikes.
            I have worked as a bicycle messenger on and off over the years and one of the pivotal events of my life, as it was for all New Yorkers, was the tragedy of 9/11.  Along with many of my messenger friends, we volunteered at the trade center staging area over on 23rd street and the Hudson river to pack up clothes and supplies for delivery down to the workers engaged in the rescue and recovery.   Dan Jarquio and John Yacobellis, two of my biking friends had somehow managed to elude military and police checkpoints and gotten down to the recovery site to lend a hand.  On September 13th Jerry Faust, Sylvester Schneider (the owner of Zum Schneider bar), Jeff Smith and I decided to make a go of trying to get down to the trade center and participate in the recovery.  We rode down avenue C and then took the route along East River Park which was one of the few spots where there were no police or military check points.  The going was rather dark, especially when we were riding near the Fulton Fish Market and right near the South Street Seaport all the lights were off.  It was so dark that Jerry and I hit a curb and I managed to not land on my head but ended up breaking my left shoulder.  I ended up at Beekman downtown hospital where there were many fireman and cops being treated for injuries sustained while working at the site.  I remember one police officer’s Dante-esque description of the treacherous debris and how it kept shifting around and how they would discover body parts in the debris.
            Since then I ride up the Hudson bike path as often as I can and am grateful for this little piece of real estate.  Since I live all the way out in Mill Basin in Brooklyn I am afforded the chance, at least in the warmer months, to ride back to the Basin through Prospect Park, always a delight.  I am hoping to take my bike with me out to Montana and other points west this next summer on a kind of photographic Safari.
John Harris  
 John Harris Today

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