Organizers of the annual Athens 9/11 Heroes Run 5K ask those in the community to put their differences aside and come together to honor the nearly 3,000 lives lost Sept. 11, 2001.
The fifth annual run, set to step off 7 a.m. Saturday at the Alabama Veterans Museum & Archives, also pays homage to all veterans, military and first responders who serve our country and community.
“During this time of unprecedented division in our country, I am inspired to see so many communities across the country and around the world put their differences aside to unite in honor of all those touched by the events of Sept. 11, 2001,” said Ryan Manion, president of Travis Manion Foundation, in a press release. “We challenge all Americans to join us this September, to ensure our future generations never forget the sacrifices our veterans, active-duty military, first responders and civilians who were affected by the attacks on 9/11 and in the wars since.”
Local race director Whitney Hollingsworth said Athens offers the only 9/11 Heroes Run 5K in the state through the Travis Manion Foundation. Hollingsworth previously directed the Elkmont Lions Club 10K.
Now in its 12th year, the national race series is held in more than 90 locations across the country and around the world. The race is expected to draw more than 60,000 participants worldwide, organizers said.
Hollingsworth believes this year's race will mark the biggest yet in Athens. Last year, Athens 9/11 Heroes Run 5K drew 323 participants, she said. As of Wednesday, 580 participants were registered for this year's race, and registration was still underway.
The 9/11 Heroes Run 5K series was inspired by Marine 1st Lt. Travis Manion, who was killed by an enemy sniper in Iraq in April 2007 while pulling wounded teammates to safety.
Before his final deployment, Manion visited Rescue One — famous for losing almost all of their men on 9/11— in New York City. Manion returned home with a deeper passion about why he was fighting in Iraq.
Today, Manion's legacy lives on in the words he spoke before before leaving for his final deployment, “If not me, then who...”.
The Heroes Run is now a tribute to a personal commitment by Manion to never forget the heroes of 9/11.
Former Navy Seal Michael Cross will be the Athens Heroes Run 5K guest speaker.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Cross was living in Ireland as the son of a Baptist missionary.
A neighbor told his family to turn on the television the morning of Sept. 11, and Cross witnessed what unfolded 18 years ago.
At 16 years old, he made the commitment to serve his country any way he could. He went on to become a U.S. Navy Seal and served with Lt. Brandon Looney, a close friend and Naval Academy brother to Travis Manion.
The Athens 9/11 Heroes Run 5K will benefit the Travis Manion Foundation and the Alabama Veteran's Museum.
Hollingsworth said it would be great if supporters lined the entire 5K course.
She repeated Manion's words, “If not me, then who...".
“We can all use those words in our everyday lives,” she said, adding it's all about bringing the community together.
Want to race?
Registration for the race will be underway from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. Friday at the Alabama Veterans Museum, located at 100 Pryor St. in Athens. Participants can also register from 6 to 6:45 a.m. Saturday morning.
Hollingsworth encouraged potential participants to register Friday. She said opening ceremonies start 6:45 a.m. Saturday at the museum.
Visit 911heroesrun.org/athens for more information.