SAN FRANSISCO — A retired FDNY firefighter who was one of 80 people to carry the Olympic torch in San Francisco yesterday said a last-minute rerouting minimized confrontations between torchbearers and protesters.
Rick Doran, 57, a 22-year New York Fire Department veteran who responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, was in the 11th of 40 two-person teams that carried the torch during its only North American stop. He said there was "nothing but cheers the whole way" during his trip down Van Ness Avenue.
The torch was rerouted away from thousands of demonstrators and spectators who came to witness the flame before the Beijing Games, The Associated Press reported. The changes came after protests disrupted relays in Paris and London.
Doran, a lifelong resident of Stony Brook, carried the torch 343 steps in honor of 343 firefighters and paramedics who died at Ground Zero. He said demonstrators were visible, especially at the end of the relay route, but "nothing got violent."
"This country is made up of values where you are allowed to say what you think. Nobody violated anybody and it was great."
Doran said he carried the torch around 2:30 p.m., about an hour after he was originally scheduled. The end of the relay was rerouted from a planned closing ceremony at the San Francisco Bay waterfront. The AP said the closing ceremony was rescheduled to happen at an "undisclosed location," although large crowds had gathered at the waterfront.
The route, originally planned to run 6 miles, was reduced to 3, the AP reported. The change happened less than a half-hour before the start of the relay, the AP reported.
Doran participated in the relay route because he won a contest in which Samsung asked customers to write about why cell phones are important. Doran, who helped use cell phones to identify victims and notify families at the World Trade Center, offered an especially compelling story, a Samsung representative said.
"The section I did was very important to me. Three hundred forty-three steps in honor of the fallen firefighters of Sept. 11," Doran said.