Berkshire bikers honor riders lost in NH crash
DALTON — For bikers, the sound of thumping cylinders is the backbeat of a close, traveling community.
Just before 6 p.m. Monday, a throaty roar arrived at Dalton American Legion Post 155, as more than two dozen members of the Crippled Old Busted Bikers swung in off Route 9, joining a crowd of fellow bikers, many of them veterans, that grew to more than 150 people for a somber vigil and service.
The hourlong event paid tribute to the seven people killed and three others injured — including Dalton resident Joshua Morin — when Volodymyr Zhukovskyy crossed a double yellow line on U.S. 2 near Randolph, N.H., June 21 and struck members of the Jarheads Motorcycle Club associated with the Marines.
Zhukovskyy, 23, has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of negligent homicide and remains in custody.
Jim Scace, president of the American Legion Riders, which hosted the Dalton vigil, said that when bad things happen, people rely on the extended military family.
"We know we can count on our brothers and sisters to help pick us up," Scace said.
Under a blue sky, an 11-member color guard arrived and positioned itself by the post's entrance.
"We remember those who lost their lives so suddenly," Mike Tirrell, the post's chaplain, said in an invocation. He urged the crowd to lend strength and to support to survivors of the crash, including Morin. "Keep our hearts focused on all those in need in the community."
As they picked up candles, people stuffed money into a clear plastic jug to help defray Morin's ongoing medical expenses.
"A long road to recovery is expected," a sign by the jug read, referring to Morin, a former Marine and rode with the Jarheads Motorcycle Club.
Scace, a retired Marine, asked the crowd to lend support to Morin. "And show them that no matter what, we're here for them. It's been a horrible reason for coming together."
Scace said he spoke recently with Morin's wife, Joy. "I told her, `Marines never forget each other.'"
Michael Lefebvre, founding president of the American Legion Riders, praised Morin as someone called to serve others, first in the Marines and now as a registered nurse. No member of the Morin family asked for help or recognition, he said.
"Nor would they. They are givers, not receivers," Lefebvre said. "They now need our help. Please dig as deep as you can."
Scace called out the names of all seven members of the Jarheads Motorcycle Club killed June 21. With each name, a bell sounded and a large American flag was carried out from the left side of the post and mounted on the Legion's yard.
Before the event, Lefebvre said he believes the New Hampshire accident affected people deeply, particularly in the veteran community.
"It's like 9-11. It wakes everybody up," Lefebvre said.
"Very solemn circumstances," said J.D. "Doc" Hebert, who rode in Monday with members of the Dogs of Fire motorcycle group, made up of firefighters and first responders in Adams. "Would not have missed it. It's a brotherhood."
Hebert said that in his decades as a first responder, he had not seen anything as horrific as the New Hampshire crash. "Nothing even close," he said.
Many said in interviews that people need to share the road with motorcyclists, for everyone's safety.
"Hopefully it will have an impact," Hebert said, when asked what people passing by should know about what took place at the Legion. "Seeing grizzled bikers come together like this. It's that common bond."
Scott Tucker of Hinsdale, a founder of the Dalton-based Crippled Old Busted Bikers, arrived with fellow riders and checked in at a small tent to pick up a candle, greeting friends at every turn.
Though not associated with the military, his riders look for ways to contribute to good causes, journeying recently to Agawam to help a child.
"We help out all brothers and sisters in need," said Tucker. "We don't have to know the person."
He shook his head when asked about the New Hampshire crash.
"I just can't really understand how they let people get away with that," Tucker said of Zhukovskyy. "Seven people gone within seconds."
Tucker suggests that parents who travel with young children invite them to count passing motorcycles. "That way when they're old, they'll be more aware. That could make a difference," he said of road safety.
Doug Hand, a member of the Dogs of Fire, said he came to the vigil because he grew up in a military family. He wishes people would drive more carefully.
"People would rather be in a hurry than take care of other people on the road," Hand said. "A lot of cars just don't care."
Daniel Speth, vice president of the American Legion Riders, said like all motorcyclists, he drives defensively. "You've got to pay attention. One hundred percent. If not, you're going to get in trouble," he said. "In that split second you can get whacked."
Looking around the crowd on the Legion's lawn, Speth said the event came together because people care.
"The American Legion wanted to help. Vietnam veterans wanted to help. It's a big community," he said.
Larry Parnass can be reached at email@example.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.
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