Posted June 12
() — By Josh Wallace Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org Motorcyclists from around the country, numbering more than 1,000 strong, rumbled through the streets of downtown Oklahoma City on Saturday for the 10th annual Ride to Remember. "Hard to come down here," said Willi Butler, a retired Oklahoma City firefighter and co-founder of the run as he stood next to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum's reflecting pool. A corporal and one of the first on the scene at the time of the bombing, Butler said he rarely makes it to the site, except for the annual run which is populated by fellow firefighters and first responders who could be seen paying their respects to those lost 22 years ago. Created in 2007, the annual benefit run honors the 168 people who were killed from the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. All funds raised go toward the memorial, which operates solely on private donations. Event co-founder and founder of Ride Oklahoma Charities, David Dunn said he thought of the memorial run a decade ago after realizing that there were a number of benefit runs in the state, but nothing that supported the national memorial. After contacting Butler and the members of the Heartland Heat Wind and fire motorcycle club, the event grew from a few dozen to several hundred just in the first few years. Butler said he expected a similar crowd to last year, where nearly 1,500 motorcyclists packed the grounds of the memorial and about $50,000 was raised. "We're hoping we've got at least 1,100 riders. Today's weather is probably going to hold back a few, but they may catch up with us and register," he said. "I think we shut down Oklahoma City when we came down Reno (Avenue), everybody was down the road just clapping." A number of motorcycle clubs from Texas and other states bordering Oklahoma came to the event. Butler said a group of riders from Minnesota were also in attendance. Mike Turpen, chairman of the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation addressed the crowd, who had congregated to the north side of the memorial. "Welcome to the sacred ground that we call the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. I like to say that America is about 240 years old; think about that, our country is about 240 years old. (We're) still a very young experiment in democracy, but the greatness of America is gatherings just like this. This is America," Turpen said as members of the crowd clapped and cheered. Butler said he hoped to surpass last year's total raised for the memorial, adding that he thought they might raise as much as $56,000 this year As the gathering at the memorial was coming to a close, motorcyclists placed 168 wreaths on the chairs in the Field of Empty Chairs.