Guest Column

Running and Remembering at the 16th Anniversary 9/11 Memorial Run

Runners gather on Spring Lake beach at end of JSRC 911 Memorial Run
Cadets from Monmouth County Police Academy lead the 9-11 Memorial Run.
Runners approach second stop of Memorial Run.
Flags and roses placed at replica constructed out of pieces of the World Trade Center.

BELMAR/SPRING LAKE, NJ — In keeping with our nation's annual demonstrations of solemn tribute to the victims of September 11, 2001, locally four hundred runners/joggers/walkers, some bicyclists, with hand flags for men and stem roses for women, participated in the 16th anniversary noncompetitive 9/11 Memorial Run organized by the Jersey Shore Running Club (JSRC), at the restored Belmar-Spring Lake boardwalk on Monday evening under hazy, summer skies. Included in that number 400 were 51 cadets from the Monmouth County Police Academy.

The proceedings began at 6 p.m. with Belmar's Tim Mahoney, run director, thanking all for coming and also a special few who helped him in his director's tasks. He then asked for a moment of silence for all our servicemen present and past who are making and have made it possible for us to have a memorial event such as this. Then the participants, starting with JSRC President Michael Procopio of Ocean, began reading aloud with a hand microphone the name, age and town, from a typed list, each of the 147 Monmouth County residents who died on that tragic day. Each passed the microphone and list to another so as to get as many as possible to read aloud at least one name. Then Mahoney with the Stars and Stripes flag pole in hand led the silent, nontalking pack on their southward trek. At times, spectators on the beach offered spontaneous applause for the parade of runners, as they recognized the purpose of the run.

The runners briefly stopped at the Ellanor C. Lawrence Park (also known as Memorial Park) adjacent to Lake Como that had a flagpole with the Stars and Stripes at half-mast. Here the Spring Lake Police Association had donated a plaque, dedicated September 11, 2004, set in stone, with this message: "We the people of Spring Lake remember our residents and neighbors who lost their lives in terrorist attacks against the United States of America."

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On the plaque: Shanksville, PA: Donald A. Petersen, Jean Petersen. World Trade Center : Richard E. Bosco, Thomas F. Hughes Jr., Paul H. Keating, James J. McAlary Jr., James T. Murphy, Robert W. O'Shea, Donald W. Robertson Jr.

Beginning with Joe Connor of Taylor Hardware in Belmar, the mourners resumed reading aloud another third of the names from the list of 147 and about half placed their hand flags and roses at the base of the plaque.

They then continued their absolutely silent run/jog/walk/cycle on the road and boardwalk to the destination point at the Spring Lake beach gazebo across from Newark Avenue, approximately a one-mile distance. There, a piece of the World Trade Center, donated by Eddie Lennon, friend of Mahoney, had been placed on the sand and the mourners gathered around it. JSRC member Dan Napoliton of Wall led off to finish reading the final third names from the list.

Mahoney then offered the still very-silent group an opportunity to sound aloud any name that was not on that list who also was a victim on September 11, 2001. About 30 names were heard. The song "God Bless America" was started and all were asked to join in. If a choirmaster would not have been impressed by the sound he/she heard, its total sincerity would have been noticed. Mahoney again thanked all for coming and asked them to give themselves a round of applause. Had someone suggested giving Mahoney applause, many hands would be hurting from clapping.

The group then placed the remaining flags and flowers at the World Trade Center piece and "resumed" their Memorial Run/Jog/Walk/Cycle and returned to the starting area at their own pace with talking now permitted, under magnificently lit sunset skies. Lake Como's popular restaurant Bar Anticipation was the new destination point where “light fare” had been arranged.

One participant, a "former champion racer" who has belonged to three racing clubs, offered this meaningful comment: "I doubt if there was a more thorough display of a 9-11 remembrance anywhere in New Jersey or New York."

This reporter, in addition to reflecting on the lives lost on 9/11, remembered her mentor and co-writer of this event in past years, recently departed runner-writer Jim Robbins of Eatontown, a true American who will be missed.

The theme of the memorial run as stated by Mahoney at the 6 p.m. start is to "Run, Remember, Reflect and Resume." The "run" is obvious since the idea was created by Mahoney and Bob Both who are members of the JSRC and regulars on the club's Thursday night runs in that same boardwalk area. "Remember" is why the group read the names. "Reflect" is the reason for the silence (the only sound was the noise of the 700 running shoes meeting the surface), so that there can be time to think about and concentrate on the tragedy that occurred on 9/11 including reflecting on those poor, innocent souls that had to make that horrible decision to jump to their deaths rather than burn alive. "Resume" is in response to that which President George W.Bush had asked the citizens of our beloved America to do: "Resume your lives but never forget."

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