NORWALK - The sounds of rolling thunder kicked off the 8th annual Connecticut United Ride, the largest 9/11 tribute in Connecticut.

Thousands of bikers hit the streets of 11 southwestern Connecticut communities Sunday to raise money for various programs benefiting police officers and firefighters.

The event was originally a "tribute ride" that started just weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. Organizers say the ride has continued ever since, to remember everyone who lost their lives that day.

More than 2,000 bikers from as far away as New York City packed a parking lot on Norden Street in Norwalk to take part in the ride.

The 60-mile ride begins in Norwalk and makes its way through several communities before ending at Seaside Park in Bridgeport. Along the way, fire departments used their ladder trucks as a pole to hang American flags.

Fred Garrity, the director of the race, says the tribute has special meaning.

"It is just an event that shows great patriotism and great respect for those that did give their lives and those that lost their lives on 9/11," he says.