WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — Community members and active duty personnel of all branches, ages and ranks ran to commemorate the attacks that level all Americans to the same heartbreak and pride for the heroes who sacrificed most for it.
Nine-hundred runners and walkers gathered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on the morning of Sept. 11 to make the sixth annual Run for the Fallen the largest yet.
“We stand far behind the front line of the attacks here at Wright-Patterson. We get caught up in our day-to-day jobs,” said 1st Lt. Brett Peterson, who planned the event with help from Wright-Patterson’s Civil Engineering, Force Support Squadron, Security Forces, Fire Department and volunteers across base. “This event is important because it brings us back to the core of why we serve our country.”
This year, Col. Thomas Sherman, 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander, declared the event an alternate duty location, allowing more personnel than ever to step away from their desks for the 5k run and 2k walk.
Before sirens signaled the start of the run, the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Honor Guard performed a flag posting, and Chaplain (Capt.) Marcus Branch and Chief Master Sgt. Stephen Arbona, 88th Air Base Wing command chief, opened the day with remarks.
In 2019, first finishers’ strong bodies supported the fastest legs but also fainter first-hand memories of the attacks.
“I was in first grade,” said 1st Lt. Alexander Collins, who crossed the line seventh. “I just remember the tone in my parents’ voices.”
“I was eating breakfast when the second tower fell,” said Peterson. “That night, my mom and dad pulled my brother and I into their room, and we prayed for half an hour together. That’s when it registered.”
But youth didn’t translate to apathy at the annual run; younger participants experience 9/11 through stories and relationships that continue to change lives after 18 years.
Staff Sgt. Jacob McCubbin, the Run for the Fallen’s first finisher and the winner of the 2018 Air Force Marathon, recognized that his sub-16 minute 5k didn’t matter that day.
“You run hard to honor them, but it’s really about the sacrifices made at the unfortunate events of 9/11,” said McCubbin.
The terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington D.C. hit closer to home for 1st Lt. Colleen Sylvester, sending her mother, a member of the Wisconsin Air National Guard, to deploy to Afghanistan in 2002.
“That’s when I knew I wanted to follow in her footsteps,” Sylvester said. “To have an attack on US soil really brings to front why we need to prepare every day.”
“Being in a society where news travels so fast and the world changes so often, it’s very important to remember,” said Branch, who prayed before runners took off. “Today is an opportunity to shed light on another area—to say that we have a community here at Wright-Patterson, that we do remember and that we are not too busy to take a moment and show we care.”