The Sept. 11 memorial run has already raised $70,000 for 9-11 victims relief groups like the Survivor's Fund, the Port Authority Police World Trade Center Disaster Relief Fund and the Flicker of Hope Foundation.
Now, as Arlington's police and firefighters are getting ready for a five kilometer run Saturday, Sept. 4, they say commemorating the event is almost as important as an ongoing need for funds. This is the third straight year of the run.
The memory of the attack on the Pentagon is still fresh in minds of Arlington residents. Hijacked by terrorists, American Airlines flight 77 was flown directly into the building. The death toll consisted of 125 people inside the Pentagon and the 64 passengers and crew onboard the plane.
The memorial course will begin and end outside Doubletree hotel, 300 Army Navy Dr., and will take runners past the Pentagon.
Cpt. Matt Smith of the Arlington Police Department said he and his fellow officers feel a duty to commemorate the coming anniversary of the attacks.
"We all feel a certain obligation to acknowledge what happened at the Pentagon, in our own backyard, on 9-11," Smith said. "The run began as a way to memorialize the one-year anniversary. The idea started with just an off-the-cuff conversation between myself, Detective Dan Borrelli and the Chief of Arlington Police. We got to thinking about we could host a race. We ran with the idea from there."
The event is open to civilian runners, who can register to join the run until it begins at 6 p.m. Local military personnel are also expected to participate along with officers from several police departments outside Virginia. Victims of the attacks and their families have also been invited to the run. Police from Somerset, Penn., where one of the hijacked planes crashed after passengers reportedly tried to storm the cockpit to challenge the hijackers, are expected to be at the starting line.
Det. Sean Bryson of the Arlington police said because of the continued conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, military participation in the run is especially important.
"The military is one of the main focuses," he said. "They probably need the most support right now. We still have people overseas who we need to be thinking about."
According to Det. Borrelli, who was at the Pentagon five minutes after the attack, an estimated 800 runners have already signed up. Borrelli said the run is a celebration of community spirit in the face of tragedy.
"What I saw at the Pentagon that day was a community that came together," Borrelli said. "The war on terrorism is on-going and we certainly don't want people to forget what happened or the good spirits that got us through it."
The run was organized through the Arlington Police Charitable Fund. Over the past two years, Smith said, more than 4,600 people have participated. Smith said part of the money raised will go towards building a memorial to Arlington police officers killed in the line of duty. A portion of the money will also be donated to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which provides financial support and even college scholarships to the families of Army Special Operations soldiers killed in combat. Other charities receiving funds include the Salvation Army and the Red Cross.
"We change the charities we donate to from year to year based on need," Smith said. "There's still a great need for special ops soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and when we looked into donating to the Warrior Foundation, we realized they didn't have much in their fund."
The run will begin with an opening ceremony and a moment of silence. Afterwards, a community celebration will be held and is expected to last until 9 p.m..
"The event has several folds," Smith said. "There's the aspect of donating to these charities, of commemorating 9-11, coming together to celebrate our resilience and making sure that we never forget what happened."