Singer Billy Joel joined Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on a memorial motorcycle ride yesterday, retracing the route the FDNY's Rescue 1 traveled from midtown Manhattan to Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2001.
The men led a group of hundreds, including police officers from Nassau and Suffolk counties, who rumbled down the West Side Highway, starting near Rescue 1's firehouse, to Ground Zero, where terrorist-hijacked jetliners had crashed into the World Trade Center in 2001.
Earlier, Cuomo and Joel joined Vice President Joe Biden near the Rescue 1 station, where they greeted a crowd, many of them police officers and firefighters.
Standing in a tent with bikers clad in leather jackets, Cuomo told hundreds preparing to bike downtown:
"When you make that ride, the symbolism is, just imagine what was going through their head that day. They knew what they were going into. This was their job. This was their profession. Any firefighter who headed south, any policeman who headed south, knew exactly where they were going. Everybody else was running north."
The governor added: "They are true American heroes. They are true New York heroes."
Biden talked about the dangers faced at Ground Zero, saying, "They went ahead anyway. . . . You became the face of resolve for all Americans."
He added: "God bless the memory of the heroes we lost."
Rescue 1 was hit hard on Sept. 11, 2001, losing nearly half its company that day.
"They died alongside many other heroes," Biden said -- 343 from the FDNY, 37 from the Port Authority police force and 23 from the NYPD.
Both Biden and Cuomo promised to fight for Congress to renew the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund from which more than $1.44 billion -- more than half the $2.775 billion fund -- has been allocated for awards.
Referring to the legislation authorizing the fund -- a law named after 9/11 first responder James Zadroga of the NYPD, who died of respiratory disease -- Cuomo said: "I will not rest until that Zadroga bill is reissued time and time again."
He was drowned out in applause. With Laura Blasey