The 9/11 Memorial and Museum 5K run/walk returned Sunday after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thousands of New Yorkers wearing shorts, leggings, and sweatpants flocked to the North Cove Marina to raise funds for the institution honoring the memory of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. For both participants and museum officials, the event is about ensuring the generations born after the infamous tragedy never forget the disaster or the way the city unified amidst the heartbreak.
“I have not stood at this particular mic since 2019 and I can’t tell you how much it means to me to be back,” Alice Greenwald said, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. “Last September marked 20 years since the 9/11 attacks. We turned our focus to the new year and how we can ensure all those who have been born since 2001 will learn about the way we responded with unity, with resilience, and with hope.”
Joe Monte can appreciate this sentiment. Although he was only 11 years old when the towers fell, Monte now works for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a legacy he wishes to honor running in memory of the lives who came before him.
“We lost 87 employees. I like to honor the fallen people, including the police. It’s just a great thing to do to remember people, even if you don’t know them,” Monte said, explaining the beauty of the event. “It’s just people who don’t know each other coming together 20 years later to remember something–to make sure the next generation remembers. It’s amazing. It’s like taking a really terrible, terrible thing and trying to find some light in it to move us forward.”
Erica Barker served in the military as a photojournalist in Iraq and Afghanistan. She told amNewYork Metro that her mentor was killed during the conflict resulting from 9/11 and now she runs in his memory.
“My mentor Bobby McGrill was killed out there. You know, he taught me a lot and we were out there because of 9/11. I watched that happen and it just changed a big part of my life. I am who I am today, because of, unfortunately, a lot of the negative circumstances but also a lot of the mentors that came into my life like Bobby, and the experiences I had received, so that’s why I’m doing it–for it’s for folks like Bobby who keep mentoring the young and making them better,” Barker said.
Even with two decades passing, the vivid memory of that September still haunts those who lived it. Bill Spade responded to the attack as a part of Rescue 5 and became the only surviving member of his team when the South Tower began to collapse. Receiving a rousing round of applause from the runners in attendance, Spade began to weep. This moment summed up why many of those were taking part in the race: to celebrate those who strived to do good during a dark time.
The runners set off at 8:30 a.m. on North End Avenue at Brookfield Place and finished at the 9/11 Memorial Plaza on Greenwich Street. The route of the 5K run/walk followed the path that rescue and recovery workers took 20 years ago down West Street to reach Ground Zero. Participants in the event also gained free entry into the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.