A month from now, America again observes Patriots’ Day, the time to stop and remember those who died in the attacks that took place on September 11. This year, it does so with a sense of eerie familiarity. That first September 11, in 2001, also fell on a Tuesday. And while the intervening years may have added a layer of comfort over the wounds, and given the country a sense of perspective, it still seeks to commemorate the lives lost.
One of the ways to do so has typically been through community service. Another has been sports, something that was originally disrupted by the terrorist attacks. With flights cancelled and many areas on high alert, stadiums sat empty and people stayed home, fearful.
What a difference time makes. Over the nearly two decades since the attacks, sports organizers have seen there are plenty of people out there ready to show their patriotism and step forward publicly to defy the fear surrounding the day. And they’re all too happy to give them the opportunities to do so.
This year, a new exhibit, “Comeback Season: Sports After 9/11,” opened at the 9/11 Memorial Museum, built on the site of the former World Trade Center towers in New York:
“For so many in the weeks and months following 9/11, sports offered a welcome distraction from the weight of grief, an uplifting experience to share with others and something to cheer about,” 9/11 Memorial & Museum President Alice M. Greenwald said. “Some victims’ family members chose to honor loved ones by celebrating the sports they had loved, as leagues, teams, athletes and fans came together to affirm that what we have in common is far greater than what divides us.”
“Comeback Season” will illustrate many iconic moments — such as former President George W. Bush’s first pitch during a World Series game at Yankee Stadium and the New York Mets’ Mike Piazza’s dramatic, two-run home run during the first professional baseball game in New York City after 9/11 — as well as previously untold stories that highlight the unifying force of sports in American life.
But the exhibit is far from the only time we’ll see sports taking an active role in commemorating the victims and heroes of that day. Major League Baseball has a full schedule of games that day and it’s a sure bet the all-American pastime will be ready.
Nationwide, commemorative sports events, particularly 5Ks, have become a standard. This year, count on events to be held on both the weekend before and the weekend after. In fact, Running in the USA shows an absolutely burgeoning calendar. Even September 11 itself – despite being a weekday – has more events than any other weekday in that month. These runs tend to draw multiple first responders: police recruit classes, fire battalions and more – generally running in uniform (and in the care of firefighters, in full firefighting gear).
And knowing runners have plenty to choose from, organizers are putting out the publicity early. Shortly before the Fourth of July, Fleet Feet of Sacramento advertised its Run to Remember, taking place on Sunday, September 9:
In Downtown Sacramento, the Run To Remember 5K Run/Walk will take place to give those who vowed to “Never Forget” the opportunity to exercise that vow. The 5K run/walk will start at 9:11 a.m. on September 9, 2018, and wind through Downtown Sacramento. At the finish of the race, American flags will be handed to runners at the Tribute site located on Capitol Mall between 6th and 7th Street. Each flag will represent an American who lost their life on 9/11/2001. Runners will carry the flag they are given and will place it in the Pentagon Shaped Memorial at the "Tribute in the Park". Each American Flag will be placed next to a name plate engraved with the name of an American who did not return home. When the Run To Remember is complete, nearly 3000 flags will stand united in the Memorial as a tribute to those that were lost.
Races with similar themes are held nationwide, including Baltimore, Maryland, Coral Springs, Florida, Arlington, Virginia and Kronewetter, Wisconsin. Some are regular races while others have a unique twist, such as this one in Longmont, Colorado, which has the distinction of being a nine-hour-and-11-minute event.
But 5Ks are far from the only group events. America’s 911 Foundation offers three events this year: the Annual First Responders Poker Run, the 8th Annual America's 911 & Military Tribute Bike & Car Show and the 17th Annual America's 911 Ride, a motorcycle event.
Some events are held earlier in the calendar year, their organizers having seen the crowded calendars. In Indianapolis, the FDIC 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb is held in April. And for those who want to fit patriotism and fitness together privately, there are virtual events, including the 9/11 Heroes Run.