Today I ran the inaugural 9/11 Memorial 5k. I didn’t really want to.
Last week we all watched in horror as the Boston Marathon ended with deadly bombings. The week prior I picked up my terrified teen after her high school was in a lockdown, complete with SWAT team, because of a gun threat.
The world just doesn’t feel safe. The idea of running through lower Manhattan and finishing at the 9/11 Memorial sounded scary. I couldn’t think of a better target for some nut job.
My friends encouraged me to run: “don’t let them win” “run for Boston” “show them what America is made of”.
I didn’t really feel like being brave, nor do I think the terrorists are keeping track of my race entry status.
Then I thought about all the people that stand up for freedom all over the world. The women who risk their lives by going to school. The fledgling democracies who’s constituents brave real danger, just to vote. All I have to do is run a 5k, not really so brave, but a statement to the rest of the world that we aren’t scared and we won’t be intimidated.
I would like to say that I felt all bad ass and all America First. In reality I felt nauseous and my children begged me not to go. I shouldn’t have worried, because you know what? We are America, and we are bad ass, and the NYPD showed up and could have stopped an invading army today. I’ve never been so proud of my country, my city, and a little bit of myself.
The race route takes you down the Hudson river and then up the narrow streets of downtown Manhattan to the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero. As I was running the last stretch of the race all I could think was that these were the streets where so many had run for their lives on 9/11. Yet still here we are, running on our own terms. As I crossed the finish line I high fived every cop I saw in gratitude and then hugged a few firemen.
The run wasn’t timed, no one “won”. For finishing we all got a free pass to the 9/11 Memorial. If you haven’t had a chance to visit, I highly recommend it. My friends lost their husbands on 9/11, my husband’s old firm lost 67 people, I’ve never had the desire to go, it somehow still feels raw. The new 9/11 Memorial is a stunning tribute to the tragedy, the victims, and the heroes. The reflecting pools in the space where each tower stood are engraved with the names of each person lost and filled with fresh running water. It’s an oasis of calm and solitude in the middle of the busy city.
There was no celebrating at the finish line, just a solemn remembrance and the NYPD Pipes and Drums.