Honoring September 11th

“I ran. I’ll never forget the sound of the building crumbling behind me. I didn’t turn around. I just ran and ran and ran.”
One survivor of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Mike gets personal about September 11th.

Screaming and running have always been our primal human fear defense mechanisms. Running away is the natural thing to do.

At some point in every race and often in daily runs every runner is faced with a moment of decision; do I keep on running hard and be physically uncomfortable or do I back off and take it easy? It is at these moments that each runner looks within and often discovers who they are or who they can be.
It’s at that moment and by that decision that the runner feels most alive.

In three days I honor the 17th anniversary of September 11th. No, that’s NOT a typo. Actually the story starts on Friday October 15th, 1993. My first wife Sue was running at the Hartnell College track in Salinas and suffered a cerebral hemorrhage due to an aneurysm. No warning signs, no behavioral changes, no headaches in the previous months. She required immediate surgery and an MRI indicated she had Glioblastoma Multiforme 4, a diagnosis you never want to hear, advanced brain cancer.

She was 46 and outwardly extremely healthy; maintained a healthy weight, a runner, a swimmer, never smoked, only drank alcohol occasionally and it was red wine. She ate all the recommended foods, with a lot of fruits and vegetables; never used extra salt, didn’t have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, always ordered dressing “on the side”. She maintained a fairly easy-going personality and we had three relatively stressless and wonderful children.

All of us runners and health addicts who think we are “bulletproof” should think again. Lifestyle choices are only one part of the puzzle. After the surgery, the doctor said the prognosis was less than a year and she passed away 11 months later on September 11th, 1994; a precious and vibrant life gone at a far too early age.

She and our family struggled during that 11 months, but my running thrived (as meaningless as it seemed), as I used it and my running partners for stress relief, strength, and comfort. I ran and ran and ran.

September 11th was our unique family day for memories for seven years until 2001. It still is, but we now share it with the entire country. Somehow it only feels right that September 11th should be a national day of honor and reflection.

We had 11 months to confront and face death and talk about it and the consequences. I can only imagine and pretend to feel the pain of those whose loved ones left for work on a “normal” day, or to take a plane on a “routine” business trip, and they never saw them again. No time to even think of goodbyes. Nearly 3,000 people died; 411 were firefighters, police, and paramedics who ran into the World Trade Center buildings and overcame their fear.

On September 11th, instead of re-creating pictures in our mind of the horrors of tumbling and broken buildings, and airplanes falling from the sky, we should think compassionately of those precious and vibrant victims that died and their grieving family members. Make it personal.

Before you go for a run on September 11th, and every day after, make sure you are running toward something and not away from it. And hug your family before you go.

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