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Interview of Dan Rowan, Sal Princiotta, Ralph Perricelli

Aired December 21, 2001 - 11:33   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: On this Friday, we are feeling good about bringing you an uplifting story as six New York City firefighters are giving their legs a rest today. The group completed a cross country bicycle tour on Sunday to thank Americans for their support. They left Ground Zero on November 11th, and they pedaled all the way to Pasadena, California.

Two of the guys from Engine 33 joining us from New York. Actually, we have three of you. That's great. We have Dan Rowan, Sal Princiotta, and Ralph Perricelli. Gentlemen, firemen, welcome. Good morning to you.

SAL PRINCIOTTA, NEW YORK FIREFIGHTER: Good morning to you.

RALPH PERRICELLI, NEW YORK FIREFIGHTER: Good morning.

KAGAN: I imagine you're just getting back to New York.

DAN ROWAN, NEW YORK FIREFIGHTER: I'm acclimating back to New York. Yes, I am.

PRINCIOTTA: Slowly.

KAGAN: Slowly. How are those legs feeling?

ROWAN: Fantastic.

PRINCIOTTA: Like lead.

KAGAN: As I understand it, all three of you active firefighters all worked at Ground Zero before taking off on this bike trip.

ROWAN: Yes, we had.

PRINCIOTTA: Correct.

KAGAN: And how did the idea of the bike trip come up, and how did you know it was time to go?

ROWAN: It was time to go to pay back a nation that has given us just so much. From the person, a homeless gentleman giving me $1.22 to the little Cub Scouts, girls, Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts giving us all their change that they gave to us from selling their lemonade stand right down to the solid blue line of all fire fighters that weren't in New York City, but they came from Twenty Nine Palms, California; from Pasadena, California; Detroit, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois; Jacksonville, Florida. How do we pay these firefighters back for giving the city of New York so much? So we took it upon ourselves and got in touch with Cannondale Corporation to come out and give me a hand, and they were more than happy to help me along with my route.

PRINCIOTTA: It was really the least we can do for this country. We just felt we had to do something more than we were doing. So, it was just something that -- we were just motivated by the whole country and the spirit of this nation to do a little bit something more.

KAGAN: And as I understand it, as you were going across America, each stop you would make sure to repeat the names of many of the victims and especially your close friends and family that you lost in the attack.

PRINCIOTTA: Absolutely.

ROWAN: We lost ten men in our company, 33 and Ladder Nine. Every time we hit that little block in the wall. We had man against man, we had man against machine, man against the elements. Every time you hit that one little roadblock, we'd be calling out all our brothers, Lieutenant Pfeifer (ph), Bobby King, Bobby Evans, and it just kept going on and on and on, and they got us over the hump to get us into Pasadena, California. So, without them, there would be no us.

KAGAN: Because I imagine this wasn't easy. You guys regular cyclists before this all happened?

ROWAN: We have all been some sort of -- being a New York City firefighter, you have to be in pristine condition.

KAGAN: I would think so.

PRINCIOTTA: We're cyclists now, though, I'll tell you that.

ROWAN: Cyclists now. I'm a triathlete, Sal is is a personal trainer. Dolan, you know, he's an avid marathoner. We have many, many attributes to get us through this.

KAGAN: Were any of the three of you -- tell me where you were on September 11th.

ROWAN: September 11th, I was actually with a police officer, who is a liaison between the FAA, Secret Service, and the Police Department Port Authority at Kennedy Airport, and we saw what had happened. I was at his house, and we immediately knew it was going to be a recall, and we came right in. I was in at 11:00 a.m. in the morning, I was along with Sal and along with Ralph.

PRINCIOTTA: Yeah, I live in Midtown, so I got down there pretty quick.

KAGAN: You did.

PRINCIOTTA: Yes.

KAGAN: And on this -- actually, on September 11th, then, so you were down there by 11, by mid-day, so this is after the buildings collapsed.

ROWAN: Right after the buildings collapsed.

PRINCIOTTA: Right before -- right after two collapsed. We were on the scene, doing what we can, like everybody else that was down there, all the firefighters, and police, civilians, but we did what we had to do, and you tried to do the best you could to find your brothers. 343 firemen didn't make it out that day, but they are in a better place, and they're looking down on us. I know Mike Boyle and Dave Arce gave me a run, they helped bend a couple of my tires on the strip, they used to rib me a little bit, I guess they were ribbing me from up above. Wasn't for the spirit of those guys, and my uncle, Deputy Chief Ray Downey, I never would have made it.

KAGAN: Was there a tug at your heart, and what you thought you should be doing, a great idea to go across the country and show your appreciation, but did you feel, maybe, you still belonged at home, since there was more work to be done there?

PRINCIOTTA: Absolutely. I think we all felt that down the line, because -- especially after the plane crash, you know, we all wanted to go home immediately, but we were talked out of it. We still had to move on and trek on for the spirit of this country and the brothers we lost. Sure, there was a lot of times that we felt like, what are we doing out here? But when you see all the response we were getting, and how we connected people to, you know, to what our pain and our suffering, you just feel that the whole country was feeling it, and they just needed to be connected in a way.

Amazing to see the patriotism across this country. It was quite an uplifting thing to experience. I just wish all the firefighters on this job could have experienced the love and affection that we received experienced from across the country.

KAGAN: And a funny thing happened, I know it wasn't your intention, but a funny thing happened on your way across America. As I understand it, you guys raised like $100,000?

ROWAN: Close to $100,000. We pulled into Palm Springs -- people were trying to donate money to us as we were riding our bicycles.

KAGAN: Which would just make it heavier.

(LAUGHTER)

ROWAN: Just a tad. But this was not a tour to take money in. This was a tour we put together to thank America for being there for New York City. New York City needed America's help, and the nation bonded together and they came right to our aid, and I really want it thank a nation and every fire department, every police station, every EMS station. We had a mission to hit 100 fire stations. I ended up hitting, I think -- I believe it was 176 fire stations. KAGAN: Really.

ROWAN: We went to cancer care hospitals, we've been to burn units, child's burn units. I mean, by far, we touched schools, we gave speeches in auditoriums. We have touched so many people who really want to know what did really happen at the Trade Center, and yes, we were there, and they got me through.

Every place we have been, they put us through to make sure we did make it. I want to thank every agency out there, from Holland Tunnel right to Pasadena, we had some sort of an escort, whether it be police escort, whether it be EMS escort, whether it be a fire truck escort. They were there to make sure this worked, and they really did need this as much as we all needed this.

KAGAN: And on that note, I'm just going to have to say congratulations. We have a little bit of tape we have to show. Gentlemen, congratulations, and thanks for sharing your story.

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