It was the Wednesday or Thursday before the 10th Anniversary of 9/11. Initially my plans were to run early in the morning then watch the Steelers play in their first game of the season at Shan Nicole’s. Then Adam McGinnis at Foxtrot discovered that there was a run at Shanksville called the 9/11 Memorial Run. Back in November I participated in the the annual run at Shanksville. I didn’t do well in that run. The hill to the memorial kicked my ass. This new run was sponsored by Team Red, White and Blue, (www.teamrwb.org) a non-profit that helps wounded veterans make a better transition back into society. They are arranging runs in NYC, D.C. and in Shansville as a “moving tribute” to honor those who where lost on that day. Since it sounded like an awesome cause and I planned to do 10 miles that day anyhow, I was in. We would be joined by a couple of Adam’s friends and Matt Lindsey.
Of course, I had questions in the couple days and hours before the race like the route and how to negotiate the crowds that were expected. The day before, the memorial was dedicated by two former presidents and that morning Obama was to visit in remembrance. Matt, who I rode with from Altoona, drove in from the back way via Route 31.
We got there very early, registered and had plenty of time to drive up to the National Park where we met Adam and his friends. Deciding it was going to be difficult to park, get on a bus to the memorial and back in time, we decided to drive back to the high school in Shanksville where the race was to begin.
Since I had a major race the following week and since racing at a memorial seemed like something an asshole would do, I decided to run but not competitively. While we were mingling around near the parking lot, I first noticed a lot of the vehicles traveled a great distance for this race even though there were only 75 registered runners. Then this group of women walked by and one of the women asked us if we had a pair of spare headphones for her iPod that she plans on using during the run. I didn’t and Matt looked in his SUV for earbuds. I kept thinking, “I know her from somewhere” but I could not place it. After she left in search for headphones, Jeremy’s wife, one of Adam’s friends, run up to us and said if we realized who that was. It was Jeremy Glick’s wife – one of the heroes lost on Flight 93. When we realized that their were other family members there, we all began to realize the importance of this run, not just because we were honored to be running with many of the family members of Flight 93, but how a run can become so much more. It was indeed a “moving tribute” of perseverance and healing. Liz Glick said in an interview this month in Runner World Magazine about why she runs:

“It was a time where I connected with Jeremy spiritually. In simple terms, it just made me feel good when nothing else did. Now, 10 years later, running still keeps me balanced. I suffer from anxiety and depression as a result of losing my husband in such a horrific way. I find that on days that begin with a run, I feel better. Still, on many a run, tears accompany the sweat that streams down my face.”

"The Families of Flight 93."

After talking with other runners and some of the family members, we gathered below the school and started the run. I ran the course before and it is an honest run, mostly all uphill from the town to the memorial. I had a camera with me so I ended up running most of the run near the front, leapfrogging the flag bearers, a group of Penn State ROTC students, toward the monument. We ended up going further down the road than the previous race in November. The hill up to the summit was very steep and long. Adam, on Facebook, summed up the hill and the day by posting:

“Today’s memorial run in Shanksville was very suiting. A tough, uphill course to help us recognize and remember the struggles of those who lost their lives in the field that morning and those who have protected us through the war on terror. It was awesome (in the old sense of the word) to meet the victim’s families and have the opportunity to run beside them.”

Penn State ROTC running the flag through Shanksville, PA

Then at the top, the road makes a long sweeping curve through the strip mine land, that it was so long, it felt like a road out west, like you would find in the Upper Prairie. I got to the parking lot nearest to the Memorial and they were directing the runners back down the other side of the hill. Since I had my camera, I decided to stop running and walk over to the Memorial to take some pictures. I had the chance to see a tearful flag ceremony and a touching moment when a girls choir from Pittsburgh finished their performance and quietly placed ribbons at the foot of the Memorial. After taking photographs for about 20 minutes or so, I decided to get back on the road. I ran down to the closed access road to find one of the park rangers I knew from Cresson. He said all the runners have passed and the last support vehicle went by 10 to 15 minutes ago. I went into high gear down the hill toward Shankville and I caught up with the support vehicle near the bottom of Buckstown Road. I talked to the crew in the vehicle and said I was going to help the last guy in the run. I ran beside him for the remaining 2 miles. His calves were cramped up. We talked to get his mind off his leg. It turned out his name was Greg, like my dad, and he had a son named Ben. He is from Fort Worth, Texas but was working in Western PA in the gas industry. I had the support vehicle call ahead for some ice and continued to talk to him as we jogged through town and toward the school. I told him to cross the finish line first so he go home and say he did not finish last. I felt it was kind of fitting. There was so much talk right after 9/11 that even though we were stricken with tragedy, it did bring everybody closer. Unfortunately that was so quickly forgotten even just days after 9/11. I just felt that helping out a stranger on the last few miles of a memorial run honoring and remembering 9/11 was a small gesture and true to the spirit of that day.