I wasn’t supposed to do the EMS Memorial bike ride. I have no history in the EMS field and although I have a career in public service (I work for our local juvenile probation department), my connection to the EMS world was limited—I knew exactly one person who works in the field as volunteer EMT in a small mountain town in Montana. My bike riding experience was equally as limited—I had a 10-year-old hybrid bike that I had taken out on a few 20-mile rides but had never been on a road bike. So really, I wasn’t supposed to do the ride.
My original plan was to meet up with my significant other, Patrick, in D.C. after he completed the ride to do some sightseeing together. A few months before the ride, as we discussed the trip a little more, Patrick suggested I ride with him. I’m no stranger to a challenge so I quickly said I was up for it. I bought a gravel bike and waited for temps to be above freezing in Boise and tried to ride as much as I could in my limited free time between work, hockey games and some CrossFit and weightlifting classes. I was hell-bent on showing up for the ride with some sort of experience so that I wouldn’t be the newbie rider who showed up completely unprepared. I was worried that I was never on my saddle two days in a row. When Patrick found out that I randomly went out for a 50-mile ride one day, he promised I would be physically prepared.
Patrick did his best to prepare me for the likely gloomy weather, the hills, the long days as well as the comradery and laughs to be had. He also made sure to tell me this is a memorial ride. But the memorial side of things was the least of my worries. I’ve experienced loss and I know how I mourn. I just wasn’t sure I knew how to ride.
Before I knew it, May arrived and we were in Boston. After a long day of bike assembly and related problem-solving, we attended orientation. I anticipated this would involve logistical information and it did. What I didn’t anticipate was it being the first night of reading the names of those we would continue to memorialize and honor throughout the week. To say I was caught off guard is an understatement. I wasn’t quite sure what to think that night other than the fact that I was clearly unprepared for what was to come.
I started day one with my dog tags around my neck and the laminated information card for my honoree in the pocket of my jersey. I searched inwardly for a way to connect with this man, who I only knew by name and a brief description of life events. The only connection I could come up with was that I am also a public servant, aiming to help others in my community. I continued this practice daily throughout my ride. I didn’t share my experience with anyone else; even when Patrick offered to store my honoree’s card in a dry space, I quietly explained that I had been keeping it in my jersey pocket.
It was sometime during day two that I started to realize the difference between my fellow riders and myself: they showed prepared to memorialize their fallen colleagues with a bike ride and I showed up prepared for a bike ride with some memorializing on the side. My mindset shifted at some point in the ongoing days but I couldn’t tell you when and I can’t really describe it either. That’s part of the experience, isn’t it? It’s the entire reason Patrick was able to prepare me for the elements but couldn’t put into words what the memorial side of things was all about.
Throughout the week, I connected with new friends who verbally shared experiences with each other that people like me don’t typically hear or understand. For the first time in my life, I met people who were directly impacted by 9/11 because they were there onsite, caring for strangers, just like they do every day. I listened as my new friends described efforts to include PTSD treatment for EMS workers in their home states. I watched my new friends mourn the loss of a dear friend who helped them understand the meaning behind the ride.
Like I said, I wasn’t supposed to do the EMS Memorial Bike Ride, but I have been wonderfully and deeply impacted by doing so and have a much greater appreciation for all who show up to work on a daily basis in the EMS world.
Miranda Hansen is a juvenile probation supervisor in Boise, Idaho. With 12 years of experience working with juveniles and their families in the probation department, she is especially interested in continued multidisciplinary efforts between community partners, schools and law enforcement, as it relates to keeping kids out of the juvenile justice system.