Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering the 2001 MCM

Like other significant events in history, September 11, 2001, is a day that will never be forgotten.

I was not yet born when Hiroshima was bombed or when JFK was assassinated.  The first significant event I remember was when the Challenger blew up.  I was in 7th grade Social Studies class and we were watching the event live on television.

Fast forward 25 years and I was sitting on my couch in Durham, North Carolina, doing some studying before heading to my grad school classes.  I had the Today show on in the background and my 1 year-old son was playing quietly nearby.

I watched with horror as what initially looked like an accident turned out to be a series of incomprehensibly evil acts committed against thousands of innocent victims.  If I close my eyes, I can still picture the scenes of people who would rather jump out of a 100 story window than to stay and suffer any longer.  People with husbands, wives, children, dreams, hopes and plans for the future.  Those scenes are forever etched in my memory.

I remember picking my son up from the floor and holding him closer as my tears fell onto his soft, wispy, baby curls.  I remember a fear building up inside of me as I wondered what kind of a world he was going to grow up in.  What kind of a world had I brought this child into that human beings would bring this kind of destruction upon innocent victims?

The television coverage continued and we saw hundreds upon hundreds of people running from the buildings, covered in dirt, dust, blood and tears.  As the day wore on, however, we also saw images of hundreds upon hundreds of police and firemen running towards the buildings and into harm's way.  My heart broke for the countless thousands of people who lost their lives that day and for their families.  But it also swelled with pride for the unbelievable acts of courage and heroism that were displayed that same day.

As it so happened, I was just six weeks from running the Marine Corps Marathon on that day.  In the weeks that followed, there was a lot of talk about canceling the MCM and possibly the NYC marathon.  Ultimately, it was decided both races would go on, partly as an effort to show that we were stronger than the fear that filled us.

The start of the MCM was crowded with marines who were carrying American flags and planned to do so for the entire 26.2 miles.  Spectators were holding signs in support of the USA.  I could feel the emotion of everyone around me and the tears were flowing freely during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner.  This was going to be an unforgettable day.

The  route actually runs right along the Pentagon for a stretch of the race.  From miles 4-6, we were a mere 50 yards from the point of impact.  There were no spectators allowed on this part of the course and I remember it being eerily quiet.  I looked to my right and there was the Pentagon with a huge hole in it.  No one could take their eyes off of it and all I could hear was the sound of shoes hitting the pavement and the beating of my own heart.

The only thing that broke the silence during those two miles was the non-stop chanting of USA, USA, USA as we would run beneath an overpass.  The cheers echoed and once out of the tunnel, all would go silent again.

None of us who were alive that fateful day in September 2001 will ever forget it.  And those of us who ran the MCM in October 2001 will not forget that experience, either.  It was a day of triumph.  A day of remembrance.  A day of patriotism.  And a day when I hugged my son even tighter at the finish line and knew that life would go on.

But I would never forget.

- Kristen


  1. Hi Kristen, I was there running MCM that year too. I will never ever forget that experience. Im getting ready to run it for the 4th time this year and each time I run it I think of that day, especially as I run through the tunnels by the Pentagon. Thanks for such a lovely post. xo

    1. It was so unforgettable, wasn't it?! Good luck with the race this year and with reaching your 3:20 goal. I know you can do it! :)

  2. What an amazing experience! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, Marya! We NEED to run a race together one day!! xoxo

  4. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I got chills reading about the MCM. I clearly remember walking into my Political Communication class at Virginia Tech and watching the news replay of the first plane hitting the towers. My professor actually turned the TV off. By the time I got to my next class, every TV on campus was on. Students with family in DC and in the Pentagon were freaking out, desperately trying to contact loved ones. I was worried about my then-boyfriend (now-husband). He was co-oping at a chemical plant, and they were in lock-down all day. Several years later when the tragic events of April 16 unfolded at Virginia Tech, I remember watching the news in disbelief. Though not on the same scale as 9/11, the senseless violence and loss of innocent lives struck even closer to home. But what amazed me about both events was the outpouring of love, support, and charity. In the face of unspeakable tragedy, I watched the human spirit rise. That’s the lesson and memory I want to take forward from 9/11 and 4/16. Yes, there is evil in this world, but there is infinitely more good.

    1. I got chills reading your comment! Mostly because I can relate to the panic we were all feeling the morning of 9/11. It is similar to the panic I also felt in Boston after the marathon. And I'm sure being an alum of VT made it so close to home when that awful tragedy occurred. Ugh. But you are so right about the outpouring of love, support and charity!!! And the rise of the human spirit -- I love that! Such a great message. :)