WESTFIELD, NJ — Greta Schoenemann was in her second week at Westfield High School on Sept. 11, 2002, when strong winds caused a large tree branch to fall where she and friends were sitting for lunch. All 10 of the students below were injured. Greta died four days later.
“The last time I saw her it was just after the 9/11 ceremony,” said friend Ben Nanna, who had been in Greta’s grade. “We’d just had a moment of silence. A week later, we were having a moment of silence for her.”
Eleven years later, Nanna and other members of the Westfield High School Class of 2006 are coming together again to honor Greta, this time with “Greta’s Run,” a 5K run/walk and fundraiser for new and existing special needs programs at the Westfield Area Y in her memory.
The idea came to friends of Greta’s last year, around the 10th anniversary of her passing, when Jayne Routolo emailed several childhood friends suggesting they do something special.
“We don’t want her family to feel like she’s ever been forgotten. She’s always upstairs, in our heads,” said Nanna. “I don’t want to say ‘in our hearts,’” he smiled, “but yeah.”
The friends decided Greta would have loved helping the special needs programs at the Y in part because Greta’s sister Elyse has cerebral palsy.
“Her family’s been extraordinary,” said Nanna, who said some of them recently spent time sitting on their porch looking at pictures of Greta and remembering her.
“She really liked dragonflies. She was really into poetry. She was an athlete. She was very sensitive to other people’s feelings, she was empathetic and outspoken. I would like to think she would be proud of us for this,” said Nanna. “For me, it’s been a really excellent way of keeping what she stood for around me.”
With the run scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 15—the 11th anniversary of Greta’s passing—a number of people have already registered and volunteered, and several local businesses have offered their support.
“From this point on, all of the money raised will go to new and existing special needs programs at the Westfield Area Y because of sponsorships,” Nanna said.
The run will begin and end at the Westfield Area Y, located at 220 Clark Street, Westfield, NJ. For more information, to register or to become a sponsor, click here or contact Nanna at email@example.com or Greg Hatzisavvas at 908-233-2700 x251 or firstname.lastname@example.org.