You know that you’re doing something right when you manage to turn a tragedy into something positive. That is what Susan Retik and Patti Quigley did after they lost their husbands on 9/11.
After the loss of her husband on 9/11, Susan was moved by the support she received from friends, family, and strangers from around the world. This support helped her to navigate the landscape of widowhood — and acclimate to becoming a single mother. As she adjusted to her new life, she followed media coverage about Afghanistan and began to feel a connection with the growing number of Afghan widows. Still, a major difference between them became apparent: the widows in Afghanistan had none of the support that she and Patti experienced as “9/11 widows.”
Decades of conflict in Afghanistan had left hundreds of thousands of women without husbands — a cultural necessity for Afghans. Many Afghan widows had no means to feed, clothe, or shelter their children.
Susan felt that the generosity she had been the recipient of brought with it a responsibility to do something tangible, so in 2003 she and Patti founded Beyond the 11th, an organization dedicated to the empowerment of widows in Afghanistan who have been afflicted by war, terrorism, and oppression.
According to Beyond the 11th, they accomplish their mission by “increasing awareness of the desperate situation of widows in Afghanistan, and raising funds to help them. By providing grants to partner non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the ground in Afghanistan, they fund education and income-generation opportunities that are sustainable and culturally appropriate.”
To help achieve these goals, the organization needed a way to raise money. After some consideration, they decided to use a bike ride as their signature fundraising event. When asked why she and Patti chose a bike ride, as opposed to some other type of fundraising event, here is what Susan said:
“When we thought about wanting to do a fundraiser, we were brainstorming and Patti just said “why don’t we ride from Boston to New York?” We then decided it made more sense to ride the other direction. Even though neither of us owned bikes, it seemed like a great adventure, and a wonderful way to raise money. We loved the idea of leaving Ground Zero and doing something positive – it is all quite empowering. Since that first ride, I just got hooked. The community of cyclists is so amazing. They welcomed us, taught us, laughed and struggled with us. This will be my 4th time completing this journey. The whole experience has been life changing!”
In memory of those who lost their lives on 9/11, Beyond the 11th is planning a commemorative 3-day bike ride from Ground Zero to Boston called Beyond the Bike. An elite corps of 50 riders will do the full 3-day ride; more than 200 local riders will join them in Dover, Massachusetts for the final 25 mile Commemorative Ride.
For those who would like to participate, there is more than one way to get involved. A cyclist can register for one of the Beyond the Bike 2011 rides:
3-day Founders Ride from Ground Zero in New York to Boston
Date: Friday, September 9th – Sunday, September 11th
Distance: 270 Miles
25 mile Celebration Ride to the finish
Date: Sunday, September 11th
Distance: 25 Miles
Location: Dover-Sherborn High School – Hatch Shell in Boston
Start Time: 12:00 p.m.
It’s possible to register as an individual, join an existing team, or start a team of your own. Anyone unable to participate in the rides can fundraise as a “virtual rider” (by creating their own fundraising page), sponsor a rider, or sign up to volunteer on ride day. For more information visit Beyond the Bike.
Beyond the Bike (both rides) will end on the Esplanade in Boston and will be followed by a 9/11 commemorative concert/event being held at the Hatch Shell. Cyclists who have participated in the Founders Ride from New York will be given VIP seating. Featured speakers will include local and national leaders, 9/11 survivors and family members, and other celebrities and dignitaries. Among the performances will be the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Children’s Chorus.
This commemorative ride promises to be an inspiring experience and provides a great opportunity for cyclists to honor the victims and rescuers who lost their lives on 9/11, while raising money for a worthy cause.