A decade ago, Luci Steffensen was pumping fluid through the veins of firefighters de- hydrated from working in the rubble that was once the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
Taking care of firefighters who rescued people trapped inside the burning buildings is how Steffensen, now 46, spent her weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
For years after the tragedy, the former New York City paramedic, who has since retired and moved to Baton Rouge, didn’t let herself think about the events of that infamous day.
She didn’t watch television programs, listen to radio shows or read newspaper stories about the attacks.
Steffensen wouldn’t even talk about her feelings to her husband, George Steffensen, 57, who also is a former New York City paramedic.
“It was a horrible day,” Luci Steffensen said, adding several of her friends and co-workers died in the attacks. “I didn’t want to think about it; it was too overwhelming.”
It wasn’t until this year, the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, that Steffensen decided to tear down her boundaries and allow herself to heal the wounds she suffered a decade ago.
Steffensen started the healing process by hopping on the back of her husband’s Harley Davidson motorcycle and riding with him and four firefighters from Baton Rouge to Newburgh, N.Y., where the International Association of Fire Fighters held its annual motorcycle rally.
After the rally, the group joined at least 4,000 other firefighters and Motor Maids, a group of women motorcycle enthusiasts, and rode to the Fallen Firefighter Memorial in New York City.
Along the way, other first responders lined the freeway and cheered them on.
“It’s indescribable what it was like,” said Schyler Lewis, one of Steffensen’s riding companions. “I don’t usually get emotional, but I did that day.”
George Steffensen, who hadn’t been back to New York City since moving to Baton Rouge four years ago, said seeing such overwhelming support and solidarity made a significant impression on him.
“The amount of people there was truly impressive,” he said. “It was very healing for me.”
Steffenson, who works as a paramedic for East Baton Rouge Parish Emergency Medical Services, lost his former partner in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Each year he participates in the Louisiana EMS Memorial Bike Ride, which honors EMS workers killed or injured in the line of duty and which helps the families left behind financially.
This year’s 68-mile ride from New Orleans to Baton Rouge is scheduled Sept. 24.
To donate to the ride, send checks to the EMS headquarters at 704 Mayflower St., Baton Rouge, LA 70802.
Luci Steffenson said her husband’s dedication to honoring those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, is one of the things that prompted her to participate in this year’s cross-country motorcycle ride.
The 3,000-mile round trip took seven days and nights. The experience, Steffensen said, was both emotional and therapeutic.
“It was about time I faced up to my feelings,” she said, adding she would consider participating in the ride again next year.
Kimberly Vetter covers crime for The Advocate. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.