‘Journey’ raises funds for local fire districts | SierraSun.com

‘Journey’ raises funds for local fire districts

Kara Fox
Sierra Sun

Amy Hagadorn Ciraolo’s eyes well up as she describes the 42-day journey she took cross country with members of the New York City fire department in 2003.

“I was so moved what happened across the country and what people did for us that I had to do a book,” said Ciraolo, a former Tahoma resident. “In Southern California, military was on every corner to greet us. The Navajo Nation in Tuba City have nothing and they put on the most incredible meal.”

Firefighters from all five New York boroughs participated in the cross country bike ride from Los Angeles to New York City to raise money for the Uniformed Firefighters Association Widows’ and Children’s Fund from 9/11. Forty-two towns nationwide hosted the firefighters, asking the community to chip in and hold dinners and fundraisers. Ciraolo said the tour raised $115,000 for the fund, but that it was the human experience that prompted her to produce a book from the ride.

“It brought them to tears on many occasions,” Ciraolo said of the firefighters’ experience. “When you ride into town people would have signs. They would give hugs. Sometimes you think people have forgotten, but when you go through the towns and they have signs up and posters that say ‘we remember,’ it hits home.”

Ciraolo, who grew up in Tahoma, now lives on Long Island with her husband, Al Ciraolo, who is a firefighter in Queens. Ciraolo, a stewardess with American Airlines, said both she and her husband lost co-workers on 9/11. She said she was moved by her experience cross country and wanted to give back to the local communities.

“The people were incredible who came out,” Ciraolo said, explaining why she wanted to do a book. “I wanted it to go back to local fundraisers in the community across the country.”

Now the FDNY’s journey is memorialized in Ciraolo’s self-published photographic book, “Journey Through the Heartland” with snippets of what each community did for the firefighters. A portion of the proceeds from all sales will go toward local fire departments or organizations.

“I’m just really proud that someone from this community has taken something like this and made a positive expression of what the guys from the FDNY did,” said Victor Hernandez, a North Tahoe Fire Protection District firefighter and a friend of Ciraolo’s. “It was a great effort trying to connect all those communities together.