After walking 70 miles, Chris Delaney and two of his fellow veterans, felt the blisters on their feet, about half way into a 148-mile trek from Montauk Point Lighthouse to Ground Zero.
Early Wednesday morning at a stop along William Floyd Parkway, two Good Samaritans who only identified themselves as Laura and Dennis, gave the men bicycles to finish the Hope & Strength Walk, a journey to honor those who died as a result of the 9/11 terror attacks.
Along the way, the men planted 145 flags — one at every mile — each inscribed with a name of a victim of the 9/11 attacks, first responder or deceased soldier.
Richard Bezouska, 47, of Ohio, and Doug Williams, 40, of Bay Shore, joined Delaney to honor their friend Christopher Pupo, a NYPD officer who responded to the World Trade Center and who later joined the Coast Guard. Pupo died in June of esophageal cancer at age 39, as a result of being exposed to toxins during cleanup efforts.
At the end of the trip to Ground Zero that started on Tuesday and took 49 hours to complete, the men reached the 9/11 memorial Thursday morning and presented American flags and a U.S. Coast Guard flag to Pupo’s family.
“To see our friend Chris lying in the hospice bed telling us how much it hurt, blisters mean nothing to me,” said Delaney, 38, of Lindenhurst, who served alongside him in Iraq. “To see what Chris went through and so many others go through, it’s not that big of a deal. My feet will heal.”
Delaney, president of support group 9-1-1 Veterans, was thrilled to finish the mission to unite Long Islanders and raise scholarship funds for Pupo’s three daughters.
“Even though it’s been 11 years since 9/11, we still have people dying,” Delaney said. “This is to raise awareness that there are families destroyed by this.”
Next year, Delaney said the group plans to get more people involved and bike the entire way.
“It feels good that we were able to finish,” Delaney said. “There were a lot of people supporting us along the way, but there were also people just driving by. Hopefully, people start to wake up.”