Nothing is more humbling than tens of thousands assembling for one common purpose. The purpose on March 23 was to show a unified front against the events of December 14 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The idea was to raise money for the Sandy Hook School Support Fund, which they did to the tune of $438,000. But the unified front wasn’t just from Connecticut; they came from all corners of the planet to show support. I talked to a couple who flew in from Ireland just to take part in this event -- an amazing outpouring of support to say the least.
Myself, Kurt Wagenbach, Kayla Burroughs, John "Zippo" Frechette, and Natalie Audette represented Brattleboro (if you were there, I apologize for missing your name). We got there early only to wait, but we had some conversations -- we laughed a little, joked around a little and as race time approached we went through the warmup process. As events like this often do, this one turned serious; for me it was when the tolling of a solitary bell rang out 26 times. That made things real in a hurry; it felt like it wasn’t going to end and the sound it made I can still hear in my head. Heart-wrenching stuff to say the least. But before you knew it, we were off and running, up Main Street down Capitol Street, down the home stretch of Ford Street and 3.1 miles and 29 minutes later it’s done.
But it’s the remembrance that occurs during an event like this. I’ve said that it takes this country two weeks to get dumb again, and by dumb I mean forget. Life moves on, this is true, but if you were a family member of one of the fallen 26, a close friend of one of the 26, then forgetting is something you don’t get to do. So when the original idea for the event spawned by Matt Marcella and Katie Blake started to take shape, it blew up. The original race was supposed to be in Newtown. But when the official announcement went out, the response was overwhelming and it quickly became too big for Newtown and was moved to Hartford. Hartford Marathon pitched in with the organizing the event and did a great job.
Prior to this event the biggest starting heat I ever took part in was 500 people, so starting with some 15,000 registered runners was something else. Not to mention the 30,000 people who lined the streets and cheered for us, the high school bands that played for us and, of course, the volunteers that helped along the way. I can honestly say that I never felt better running in any other race; I truly felt like I was doing something right. The day brought back the memory of Newtown and it will keep us "smart." It will serve as a reminder that not every day is filled with sunshine. It will remind us that some days are filled with dark clouds.
I wish I could take credit for the metaphor, but I can’t. I spoke with a runner and Newtown resident and that was the example she gave me when I asked how the community is doing. She said, "Not everyday is shiny, but we’re getting there, we just have fight through some rains clouds, but we’re strong." Strong indeed, because this wasn’t an act of nature, it was a deliberate attack on a community and its citizens, which affected us all.
So if the event has a second year we’ll be there I’m sure, if for no other reason than to keep myself from getting "dumb." I wouldn’t expect the masses to be as large because the emotion won’t be as strong, but for those that do show I imagine that the sentiment will be there and most likely will never waver. What the Hell is Up with that?