I was not in New York on 9/11. I was nowhere near Washington, D.C. I wasn’t personally affected in the way so many were. But I was affected deeply in the way that all Americans were. My 9/11 story is mundane, but it is filled with the confused horror, sadness and, yes, anger that moved us all. Since that day, I’ve always made a point of sitting down to remember that day each anniversary. I watch newscasts. I watch the Naudet brothers’ “9/11” at least once a year. To me, because I did not lose a loved one and only watched the events unfold on TV, the surreal nature of the attacks requires me to relive them to make them real again. When something looks so very much like a scene out of a horrible disaster flick, and one is separated from it by the space of more than a decade, it can require concentration to remember its reality. That is a luxury the family and friends of 3,000 who died on 9/11 would like to have, I’m sure.
But it’s something many of us experience as the day and its victims recede into history and we wrestle with how to remember it and keep their memories alive. My connection to the events of 9/11 became more concrete later as friends and family went to Iraq and Afghanistan on one, two, three, and four tours. When friends were injured, rehabbed for months, changed for a lifetime.
These days, I work with the Travis Manion Foundation, an organization dedicated to honoring the fallen by challenging the living. I never met 1LT Travis Manion, killed in action in 2007 in Anbar, but I met his family in the depths of their sorrow. They gathered a group of hundreds to run the Marine Corps Marathon just months after his death. The run helped the family heal, friends pay respects, and community and former strangers connect to Travis, his sacrifice, and what he stood for.
Now, we hold annual 5K runs across the country and the world to honor the heroes of 9/11, honor those who’ve served our nation since, and activate communities and empower local veterans, first responders and survivors. You can still sign up for about 20 races across the country this weekend (many were held last weekend). Join us and meet some of the extraordinary, everyday heroes in your town. Connect with what we lost and what continues to make us great.