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ODU Hosts Memorial 5K Run the Morning of Sept. 11

More than 200 runners - approximately half of them from Old Dominion's Naval and Army ROTC programs - took part in the 9/11 Memorial 5K Run on campus Sunday morning.

The event, hosted by the Office of Student Activities and Leadership's Center for Service and Civic Engagement and the Office of Community Engagement, was held to mark the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The run was co-sponsored by Blue Star Families, a nonprofit that supports families of deployed service members. Proceeds from the run, which topped $2,000, went to the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program, which provides a network of community-based services designed to help veterans and their families overcome the challenges of stress-related and traumatic brain injuries. Other supporting organizations included the College Republicans, Community Blueprint, Mission Serves and USO.

Dick Whalen, ODU director of military affairs, welcomed all the participants during a program prior to the run, which began and ended in front of Webb Center.

"We remember every day here at ODU," he said, pointing to the university's memorial plaques by the flag poles. "We also lost part of the ODU family - half a dozen folks working at the Pentagon and family members of students who were here at the time."

Noting Blue Star Families' support of deployed military personnel overseas, Whalen said, "They run, nationally, a program called Operation Honor Card, where folks can pledge volunteer hours throughout the year for these initiatives that support the armed forces." ODU, he added, is listed on the organization's website as No. 5 in the country among nearly 1,000 corporations and other organizations.

"We're the only major academic institution in the country that is participating anywhere at that level. We all here at ODU should feel very good about that," Whalen said.

Bianca Martinez, an anchor with WTKR-TV and a military spouse, also spoke during the program. "In the face of death and tragedy, in some ways our nation was being reborn. Never in my life at that point had I seen such unity for this country except on a holiday. It was almost like, until that point, we had forgotten how to be patriots, not in the sense of taking up arms but in opening them and being one united nation," she said.

"So when we work through the tears of today and come out from the hate created by the huge sense of loss, take this anniversary and, every day from here, recreate that camaraderie, that patriotism, that selflessness and unity in every moment of your day. Take back what we lost that day, stare hatred in the face and say we are still here, we are still strong, we're still a nation united and we're still proud to call ourselves Americans."

Eric Endries, regional director of Virginia Wounded Warriors, called Sept. 11 "a defining experience for our country, our world," adding that there are two paths we can take in response to the horrific events - "a negative path or a path of growth." He said we should choose the path of "never forgetting, but moving forward. We must always strive to travel the path of positive and the path of growth."

Rev. Linda Rainey of the University Presbyterian Ministry, also spoke during the program, after which she called those assembled to share in a moment of silence. "People came together to support one another, to pray for one another, to cry for one another, despite religious or faith backgrounds. We came together as a country. Race, religion, it didn't matter. We were Americans. We were together and we were united for a common cause," Rainey said.

"As we gather today, let us remember the heroes, those who gave the ultimate price, their lives, their families and friends and those that gave of their lives. Let us continue to give of our lives. Let us give a piece of each of us, volunteering, making our communities and our world a better place as a tribute to the courage and selflessness of those that we lost on 9/11 10 years ago today."

As the runners approached the last leg of the race, they no doubt received inspiration to finish strong over the final 30 yards of the course as they ran through clusters of more than 3,000 small American flags surrounding the ODU seal at the center of Kaufman Mall. Among the 203 runners was Scott Sechrist, ODU associate professor of medical laboratory and radiation sciences, and Kim Zivkovich, associate sports information director at the university.

"I ran the race because I wanted to do something to remember and reflect on that day 10 years ago," Sechrist said. "One of my program's adjunct faculty members lost a family member in the North Tower on Sept. 11, 2001. The impact of 9/11 is never very far away from my graduates as we are now often part of the disaster response teams that prepare for the unthinkable should it involve a radiologic component."

Zivkovich wore a shirt in honor of a friend's brother, a firefighter who died in the World Trade Center attacks.

"I thought this race was a great way to come together as a campus and community and remember all those who were lost and affected by the Sept. 11 tragedy. At the same time, the proceeds from the event were going to the Wounded Warrior Program, which was another way to help give back to those who have fought for the freedom and American spirit they tried to take away that day," Zivkovich said.

"During the run, when I was breathless and tired, I thought of Dana Hannon, a firefighter, one of 11 people from my hometown of Wyckoff, N.J., who lost their lives that day, along with the 343 firefighters who unselfishly rushed up those stairs of the World Trade Center to save lives. All those who were lost and those who continue to protect our freedom were in our hearts and minds throughout."

The first runner to cross the finish line was Emmanuel Richardson of the Naval ROTC, with a time of 17:18. Melissa Johnston of the Army ROTC was the first female, with a time of 22:20.

This article was posted on: September 13, 2011

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