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Archive for the ‘Charity’ Category

2050500153_f288d92b26I don’t like to talk about Sept. 11, 2001, and this is the first time, and perhaps the last time, I’ll write about that day.

I’ve tried to shove all of it to the far corner of my mind, hoping that as the years roll by, the memories of the low-flying plane over the Hudson River, the crash that shook my downtown building, or the ash that covered scattered workers, would fade away.

But for those of us who worked in the financial district in 2001, there is no escape. Eight years after the fact, I accept that.

I ran my first 5K today, the Tunnel to Towers event in honor of fallen firefighter Stephen Siller. It took me 35 minutes to complete the race, which included a nearly two-mile run through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. About two-thirds of the way through the tunnel, I turned to someone on my right and said “the end has to be near, right?” He laughed – or was that a cry? – and responded “God I hope so.”

I wanted to stop and walk, but another runner to my left put his hand on my back and said “come on man, you’ve got it in you.” He was wearing a fire department shirt from an upstate New York town. I regret not remembering which town he represented. A few minutes later, as I slowed again, a firefighter from Worcester, Mass. came up from behind and said “no, no no, let’s go kid.” I couldn’t let them down. Not firefighters. Not on this day.

Then, as we came out of the tunnel, hundreds of firefighters lined up to cheer us on and say “thank you.” That’s when I understood … Sept. 11 won’t go away, and there’s no use hiding from it. It was time to embrace it. It may have added a minute to my score – yeah, that’s right, I’m already making excuses – but I high-fived every single firefighter standing to the right of our path. To each one of them, I repeated their words. I said “thank you.”

The rest of the race, including a run through the Battery Park Esplanade, was a breeze. The hard part, understanding why it was so important for me to participate, was over.

None of this means I’ll open up about my Sept. 11 experience. Chances are, I won’t.

But today was an awakening. My year has been filled with frustrations, as I’ve watched friends suffer tragedies and hardships, both large and small. I try to be supportive, but what else can I do? I wish someone had an answer to that question. Meanwhile, my industry, journalism, continues to struggle mightily, and there’s little relief in sight. For some families, the long-running recession has kept food off the table.

So Sept. 27 was a blessing, a needed reprieve. It was the best day of 2009.

I’ll sleep in peace.

Here’s hoping you do too.

Good night.

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3032982026_60cf4d9a01On Sunday I’ll be in downtown New York, participating in the Tunnel to Towers run in memory of firefighter Stephen Stiller, who died on Sept. 11, 2001.

The goal isn’t to finish the 3.25-mile race in 34 minutes, or even in a substandard 45 minutes. The goal is to survive, to not be brought back to my Long Island home in a box. That would be bad. It’s also not out of the realm of possibility.

It’s a far cry from 1989, when, as a high school senior, I was scouted by the Winnipeg Jets ahead of the entry draft. The organization broke my heart when it passed on me, arguing that a 6-foot-5 defenseman better suited their needs. OK, I’m making up the Winnipeg Jets part. The “far cry” from 1989 part, yeah, damn it, that’s true.

How did I get myself in this mess? My brother in law asked me in May if I wanted to join him in a 5K race for charity. I said yes. Blame it on the 1/2 bottle of Yuengling.

It took a month before I reintroduced myself to the treadmill in the basement. In August I turned the treadmill on. It’s procrastination. Journalists don’t function without deadlines. By last week I was able to make it through 3.25 miles, with Conor Oberst and Green Day carrying me, barely, to the finish line.

But experts tell me running on pavement isn’t the same, it’s harder on the knees, and it’s tougher on the back. Perhaps they’re right. Perhaps two miles in I’ll sit down on the curb, or jump on a subway back to Penn Station, where the Babylon line runs hourly on weekends.

So if this blog isn’t updated for months, or if twitter.com/drhli is suddenly inactive, Sunday probably went horribly wrong.

Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen.

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