Tunnel to Towers, a truly amazing race

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What I didn’t realize was the degree to which running in this race would help me. It was more than a run. It was a catharsis.

Like so many Long Islanders, I feared New York City for years after 9/11. There were constant warnings of an imminent terrorist attack. You could feel your blood pressure rise with each uptick in the terror alerts issued by the Department of Homeland Security. My wife and I felt unsafe bringing our young children to the city.

I had seen too much destruction on 9/11. I wasn’t at ground zero, but I watched the World Trade Center collapse live on TV. I saw the towers’ smoke plume from my car as I headed from Long Beach, where I lived at the time, to the Herald’s office, which was then in Lawrence. I heard the jet fighters screeching above the office as we worked late into the night to produce that week’s paper. I covered 13 funerals and memorials for the victims, seeing firsthand the anguish in their families’ faces.

And then there was this race –– this amazing race. By 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, I was at the starting line in Red Hook, surrounded by the NYU hockey team, the Syosset High School cross-country squad and firefighters at every turn, most wearing protective gear and running shoes. The crowd exuded such positive energy that I could only think that, no, the terrorists did not win.

And, I must say, running this race was just plain fun. The tunnel was a long, tough uphill battle in which you had to maneuver through a crowd of runners dashing at breakneck pace. I thought about how Siller’s heart must have been pounding when he reached Manhattan. Mine was, and I wasn’t carrying 60 pounds.

When I emerged from the tunnel, I was met by a line of city firefighters holding large photos of first responders who died in the World Trade Center. The firefighters said “thank you” again and again. Imagine that –– they were thanking me simply because I had paid a $50 entry fee and run in a race. Yes, kindness exists in this world.

Marching bands and cheerleading teams lined the rest of the route, which wound through the narrow park walkways along the Hudson River and then east to 1WTC. After the race, there was a huge barbecue and a three-hour concert by Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band.
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