By CBSLA Staff

SANTA MONICA (CBSLA) — About a dozen local firefighters are about to embark on a long journey to mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

“We got 42 days until 9/11,” said Batt. Chief Buck Buchanan, a retired LA County firefighter. “I’d really like to see a groundswell of patriotism come back.”

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Buchanan helped organize the cross-country bike ride that got underway Sunday at the Santa Monica Pier and was expected to take 40 days to reach New York.

In all, eleven firefighters were taking part in the memorial tribute.

“We’re going to pay our respects for those that were lost on 9/11 and to try to bring awareness to the American people about how important a date this is,” said  Buchanan. “A lot of people aren’t aware of the fact that we are coming up on more people dying, firefighters dying in the aftermath of 9/11 from working the pile, recovery, from 9/11 related cancers and illnesses.”

Tom Sowards, a firefighter in Renton, Washington, is among the group riding 3,300 miles on two wheels.

“I was on duty on 9/11 watching those towers fall just like everybody else, in shock and horror,” Sowards said. “It’s a challenge and it’s to endure and it’s to imagine what did those guys in the towers to do endure, to survive out of something that was unsurvivable.”

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The 9/11 attacks in 2001 claimed the lives of 2,977 people, including 343 New York City Firefighters and, unfortunately, the death toll continues to rise.

“A lot of people aren’t aware of the fact that we’re coming up on more firefighters dying after 911, from working the pile, recovery and stuff, from 9/11 cancer-related illnesses than were lost on 911,” Buchanan said.

That’s why the rider are also hoping to raise $100,000 to help those firefighters in need.

“It’s the least we can do. We can ride, we can peddle to raise money to help,” Diedra Williams, a hazardous material specialist with LA County Fire, said.

The 40 day journey is expected to have at least 34 days on the road, with firefighters riding 90 to 120 miles a day.

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“I also have a personal connection to people who were lost. Those are the ones to me who will help me get along each day,”Buchanan said.