Sept. 11 memorial events honor the lost, raise funds for emergency services

Jamie Squire/Allsport

It's been nearly one year since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The tragic event, and the loss felt by the whole nation, continues to reverberate.

Sept. 11, 2002, will be a day of reflection, remembrance and tribute for Americans across the country, as we honor those who lost their lives. Throughout the month, you can honor the lives of the victims and help support emergency services through a host of memorial events, ranging from 5K walks, 10K runs, and even team bicycle and canoe races. Veteran race directors and first-time organizers alike are staging Sept. 11 tribute events throughout the United States.

Adam Spiegelman, a marathoner and employee of Franklin Templeton Investments in San Mateo, Calif., is organizing his first race in memory of his co-workers. The company?s New York office, headquartered in Tower Two of the World Trade Center, lost 87 employees on Sept. 11. After the tragedy, the FT Fiduciary Trust Memorial Fund was created for victims? families.

Spiegelman wanted to take this one step further by establishing a footrace to benefit the fund. The event, Franklin Templeton Investments Memorial 5K & 10K Run/Walk, kicks off Sept. 21 at Coyote Point Park in San Mateo. Several of the company?s New York employees are participating, including company President Bill Yun. Online registration closes Sept. 19, 9 a.m. PST.

"This is a wonderful way to bring employees and the community together and get them involved in a very special cause,? said Spiegelman, who has participated in marathons and half-Ironman triathlons but has never managed a race. "It?s a real effort putting on an event of this type, with over 1,000 employees and the community involvement, but the rewards completely outweigh the work and time required. We want this to be an annual event.?

Let Freedom Run, a 4-mile race on Sept. 14, 2002 along Manhattan's West Side, will honor those who lost their lives in the Sept. 11 attacks. The course, along the Hudson River, is reminiscent of the primary evacuation route used during the attacks on the World Trade Center.

The West Side Highway was also the chief means of access to the World Trade Center site during the rescue and recovery efforts. In a symbolic gesture, participants will be running toward the site and into Battery Park, which includes a view of the Statue of Liberty.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Gov. George E. Pataki will co-chair the race with organizers that include the New York City Sports Commission, the Hudson River Park Trust and the Achilles Track Club.

Everyone, regardless of age or running experience, is welcome to participate in this one-time-only event.

"This race is a way to honor and remember the victims of September 11th in an atmosphere full of solidarity and spiritual connection," said New York City Sports Commissioner Kenneth J. Podziba. "I encourage New Yorkers and our visitors to participate and witness this unique exhibition of the American spirit and to show that New York City is stronger than ever."

Mike Steelman, a triathlete who grew up in Lansdale, Pa., and now lives in California, lost a close friend on Sept. 11. Steelman and his friend Noell Maerz were high school buddies, competing in everything from football to triathlons. Steelman got Maerz, a diehard football player, hooked on triathlons, and the two battled each other in multiple races on both coasts.

Maerz, who worked for Euro Brokers on the 84th floor of the World Trade Center?s second tower, was among 60 Euro Brokers employees who lost their lives.

Steelman, friend John Strauss and Maerz?s younger brother Erich Maerz organized the inaugural Noell Maerz Patriot Games to carry on Noell?s legacy.

"We wanted to do something to exemplify what Noell was all about ... all that he thrived for and lived for," Steelman said. "We also wanted to establish something that would bring us all home once a year. It?s a big responsibility and there are a lot of details. We know Noell is looking down on us so we want it to be perfect.?

The event, designed for two-member teams and including a 1.5-mile canoe, a 14-mile bike and four-mile run, takes place on Sept. 14 in Peace Valley Park in Doylestown, Pa. All profits will go to the Noell Maerz WTC Foundation and Make-A-Wish-Foundation.

Maerz's friends helped settle on the paddle-bike-run format: "Our boys are big football players so they wouldn?t let me have a swim, bike, run!? Steelman said.

Mike Steelman will be the featured guest on the Sept. 11 edition of Active radio's Sports You Do Show to talk about the Noell Maerz Patriot Games and the friend it pays tribute to.

The 19th annual Covington Police "Fuzz Run," which begins and ends at Covington Police Department in Covington, Ga., will also include a Sept. 11 tribute.

The race, one of the largest 5Ks in Georgia, is a public-safety appreciation event that raises funds to help law enforcement professionals experiencing extreme hardships.

This year, race organizers will debut a commemorative "patriotic" T-shirt and will honor guests from the New York City Police Department. New York police officers will be presented with the flag that flew over Georgia's state capital building.

"Our race is in its 19th year and has always offered the community a great chance to show their support for public safety," Lt. Ken Malcom explained. "This year, we wanted to recognize the sacrifices made during the events of Sept. 11 and give the community an opportunity to meet the New York police officers and thank them personally."

Participants also can win hotel and airfare for four to Disney World, plus door prizes that include restaurant offers, televisions and stereos. The Fuzz Run kicks off on Saturday, Sept. 14. Online registration closes Sept.12 at 9 p.m. PST.

Race director Jay Jacob Wind, who manages the Vanguard Foundation?s National Run For Recovery in Washington, D.C., is taking the opportunity not only to pay tribute to lives lost but also to honor public safety professionals. The race, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 21, includes a one-mile run/walk and a 5K run/walk. The Law Enforcement Challenge, a team event, was added last year.

"The Law Enforcement Challenge is a very meaningful aspect of our race and something we planned prior to Sept. 11, 2001,? said Wind, development manager for Vanguard Foundation. "Obviously, this takes on very special meaning this year.?

The original race course was changed last year due to Sept. 11 events. The race is now held in downtown Washington, D.C. in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Avenue Mile.

"Our original course looped past the Pentagon," Wing said. "After one of the hijacked planes crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, we never considered canceling our event, but decided that afternoon to postpone it."

Held every September since 1996, the National Run For Recovery celebrates National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. Proceeds from the race go to Vanguard Foundation, which has provided substance-abuse treatment programs for more than 30,000 for the past 40 years.

"September 11 profoundly affected millions of lives," Wing said. "We as runners wanted to commemorate the victims and honor the people who worked so hard to rescue them.?

Any law enforcement or emergency response agency can participate in the Law Enforcement Challenge, with medals for the top five officers male/female and trophies to the top three three-person teams and the largest team.

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