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9/11 families helped by cross-country bike tour

Linda Giammona, Executive Director of the New York

Linda Giammona, Executive Director of the New York Police and Fire Widow's and Children's Benefit Fund, finishes the last leg of the cross country Call of Duty Bike Ride, ending at the Intrepid Sea and Space Museum. (Sept. 10, 2012) Credit: Linda Rosier

Quitting in the face of adversity was just not an option for Linda Giammona of Bellmore, who Monday pedaled into Manhattan to finish a 3,000-mile, fundraising bike tour for 9/11 families.

On the docks under the USS Intrepid, a crowd of about 150 family members and friends clapped for Giammona and 23 other bike riders, who left San Diego Aug. 11 and ended the ride's final leg shortly after 3 p.m. Monday.

"When I got to a hill that I thought I couldn't make, I thought about my brother," said Giammona, executive director of the New York Police and Fire Widows' and Children's Benefit Fund.

Her brother, FDNY Capt. Vincent F. Giammona, died 9/11 -- the day he turned 40 -- as he responded to the World Trade Center attacks.

"We celebrated our birthdays together, but I have not been able to do it since," she said, declining to give her age.

But she said bicycling coast to coast has taught her "that day by day we move forward."

The event was organized by Tour of Duty, an Australian group of military members and emergency responders who run and bike in memory of fallen comrades.

This year, there were 12 U.S. bicyclists and 12 Australian riders, their red, white and blue biking shorts adorned with the U.S. flag on one side and the Australian flag on the other.

Steven Linde, an NYPD police officer from Franklin Square, said he biked from Washington to Philadelphia and then to New York with two men in mind, childhood friend and Port Authority police officer Christopher Amoroso, who died during 9/11, and cousin John Linde, who died five years ago serving the country in Iraq.

"It's an honor to be teamed up with this group of men and women," said Linde, 39. "It's still of comfort to know that the memories of 9/11 are still alive."

Two years ago, a Tour of Duty team of Australian and U.S. runners raised money with a California-to-Manhattan jog.

This year's team has raised between $30,000 and $50,000, said Paul Ritchie, Tour of Duty organizer.

The money will go to Giammona's nonprofit, which helps families of first responders who died in the attacks, and the Wounded Warriors Project, which helps disabled veterans rebuild their lives.

Giammona said her charity gives a $25,000 check to those whose spouses die in the line of duty, but over the years, the families have started to donate back to the fund.

"I'm blown away," she said. "I'm doing this ride to help them and they are giving back. It's a beautiful circle."

With Ellen Yan

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