9/11 and Boston: A special message to our American Heroes and those who emerged from tragedy

In honor of the state’s commemoration of the 12th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, Governor Maggie Hassan has directed flags to half-staff and proclaimed today as a Day of Remembrance in honor of the tragic terrorist attacks. She will speak at three commemorative events around the state: the Beech Street School 9/11 Remembrance Program in Manchester, the American Legion Post 33 Patriot Day “We Will Remember” September 11 Commemoration in Meredith, and the American Legion Post 35 Global War on Terrorism Monument Unveiling and Rededication in Hampton.
Our Reach the Beach Relay team wanted to contribute this blog as part of our agency’s support for those who have been affected by these tragedies.

It began to honor the Greek triumph over the Persians in 490 b.c. when a lone messenger ran from Marathon, Greece to Athens to deliver one final word before collapsing, “Niki!” (Victory). In 1896, Greece commenced the first Olympic Marathon retracing the 40,000 meter run to celebrate their country’s pride and freedom achieved on that day. In so doing, nine other countries ran alongside in peace including the United States of America.

We were able to be a part of that historic event because the Boston Athletic Association sponsored our athletes to be there. Boston has a deeply entrenched roll in endurance events and is filled with symbolic meaning that honors our American history and culture. Even the date of the first Boston Marathon on April 19, 1897 was chosen for Paul Revere’s famous ride on that date in 1775 and to remember what set in motion our independence.

Running events have ballooned in popularity recently and themed charity races have popped up everywhere. It is a sport that is easy to become involved with but not necessarily easy to do. We willingly take part in a solo journey beginning with hundreds of hours of training that we dedicate in preparation, and the journey continues with each step that only we can take on race day. Though each of us is simply one runner, when you pan out and view how fast we add up, what a statement! We are individuals that become one unified community when we come together peacefully. Think of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who led a peaceful and powerful march on Washington 50 years ago last month. The sheer size of the crowd, 300,000 strong that laid out before and behind him, moved history.


Photo from MLive Associated Press, 2010
Photo from ABC News:Hulton Archive/Getty Images

It is only so appropriate to share these thoughts on September 11, a day that will haunt us forever. I remember walking to a freshman orientation rally to hear our school’s President welcome us to Southern New Hampshire University. When I got to the door, a bewildered faculty member said that it had been cancelled, “New York was under attack.” I called my mom immediately as I worked my way to the televisions in the student center. I was on the phone with her at 9:03 AM as she gasped the moment Flight 175 came in behind the CNN reporter and crashed in the South Tower.

The same shock set in just as I remember standing with my teammate Kate on the green at Boston’s Commonweath and Massachusetts Ave when the marathon suddenly stopped and police vehicles appeared all around. We were with hundreds of runners who were maybe five minutes away from finishing when the news of the bombings spread; those they loved were eagerly awaiting their victorious finish line crossing. Our phone batteries died as runners desperately tried to reach their children, spouses, parents, and friends. Every extra layer of clothing we had was given away.


We will always remember specific details of where we were and what we felt during these horrific events just as our grandparents remember Pearl Harbor. Out of the terror, heroes emerged and continue to emerge with amazing displays of strength, resilience, inspiration, and selflessness.

Everything good that happens to us and everything bad that happens changes who we are. Even 12 years later to the day, there are fresh reminders of the unthinkable trauma that everyone of us in all 50 states experienced directly and indirectly. At this moment that I am writing this blog, I am looking out our Kia’s window as we cross the George Washington Bridge on our way from New Hampshire to Delaware at the new, hazy New York City skyline. The idea of the Freedom Tower is still new to me. It’s not new to my friends’ children as this is the only world they know. Words like patriotism and tolerance were redefined that day in September 12 years ago and again this past April.

There are huge economic benefits and health benefits for having endurance events but the core heartbeat behind these events is as strong as ever and as important to our communities as ever. A Runner’s World article written by author Roger Robinson the day of the Boston bombings perfectly captures the essence of running events. His last two sentences give me chills.

“Even without that special purpose, marathon running is a sport of goodwill. It’s the only sport in the world where if a competitor falls, the others around will pick him or her up. It’s the only sport in the world open to absolutely everyone, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity or any other division you can think of. It’s the only occasion when thousands of people assemble, often in a major city, for a reason that is totally peaceful, healthy and well-meaning. It’s the only sport in the world where no one ever boos anybody.

If you’re losing your faith in human nature, look at marathon crowds, standing for hours with no seating, no cover, no bathrooms, to cheer thousands of strangers. Or look at our sport’s volunteers, on whose shoulders the whole sport rests. I spent part of the Runner’s World party with mates from Buffalo and Niagara Falls who are race directors and also travel the East Coast as race volunteers, giving their skills and labor to other races. Two of them, Bob Kaminsky and Les Potapcyck, told me they were “working security at the finish line” today. Right by where the first bomb went off. They are now my greatest personal concern. Anyone who tries to kill Bob and Les is below any depth of contempt.”– by Roger Robinson in“Boston Bombings: A Loss of Innocence” published April 15, 2013

There is something solemn yet powerful about a lone runner as well; such is the man I passed near Wolfeboro one day this summer holding a pole with our stars and stripes elegantly stretched out behind him. He was proud, tall, lean, and powerful, as if he was willing to run for his purpose until his legs gave out. But he wasn’t alone in any way. He may have been by himself in form, but, even though he didn’t know me, I was running behind him too.

The New Hampshire State Parks Reach the Beach Relay Team and the New Hampshire Division of Parks & Recreation remembers 9/11 and thanks our American Heroes.

For the 9,000 athletes planning to run in the 2014 Boston Marathon, we’ll be there to cheer you on!


Each year in September, hikers fly the American flag at the summit of each of New Hampshire’s AMC designated 48 (4,000 foot) summits in New Hampshire in remembrance of 9/11 and demonstration of patriotism. This 13th annual event will take place on September 14th, 2013. http://www.flagsonthe48.org/press.php


Michele Cota

Who in their right mind would sign up for a 200 mile race? That’s what the Reach the Beach Race relay organizers asked the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation when they generously offered the Division a relay team. Twelve crazy runners jumped at the opportunity. This year we are running for planet Earth to encourage fans of New Hampshire State Parks to reduce their carbon footprint and help to protect our environment.

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