Volunteering with Fire Fighters at the 9/11 Memorial 5K Made Me Remember

Sunday was the 3rd annual 9/11 Memorial 5K Run/Walka race started “to raise awareness about the National September 11 Memorial & Museum and encourage volunteerism in memory of 9/11”.

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After crossing the finish line, participants along with the public, were greeted by Family Day. The street on the east side of the memorial was blocked off for family friendly activities, performances, military and police dog demonstrations, and celebration of heroism and the brave people who protect our city and country every day.

The entire graduating class of the FDNY was there volunteering their time for the event. Who else was on that volunteer team? Me.

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I began my morning watching 2 dozen strapping, newly minted firefighters assemble a Gymboree play zone. It was a sight to behold. I mean, all I could do was watch. These fellas are as close to knights in shining armor as you’re likely to find these days. With my meager upper-body strength, my help with this set up stopped at moral support.

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These guys were so incredibly helpful, all genuinely good people. It was an honor to work with them. You can’t go near Ground Zero without being humbled by the all those who dedicated their lives to the FDNY. The NYPD too… That’s something to remember.

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No matter what conflicting feeling I have about police in this country, a visit to the 9/11 Memorial makes me respect New York’s police force. It is flawed, that’s a fact. But it does do good and I do believe the majority of people on it are good people…

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I always want to ask mounted police officers if they were the kids who had intense horse obsessions. I never went through that phase, did you?

Did you know the West Point United States Military Academy has a band? I just googled it and apparently they’re kinda a big deal. The West Point Band has been around since the Revolutionary War. Whoa. They played live music through out the whole event yesterday, covers of pop songs like Cee Lo’s “Forget You” (very much censored) and Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” (you know what that song means to me). They were awesome and though I didn’t get a good photo of them in action, I did steal a shot of their post-set photo opp.

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The American Bombshells performed as well. They’re not associated with the military directly, but the organizations objective is to “serve and honor our Nation’s Military, Veterans, First Responders and their families by supporting and creating unique programs that ENTERTAIN, INSPIRE, and FUNDRAISE.” I missed their performance but got to watch them jump in for Zumba on the kids’ stage. Hilarious.

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Almost as good as watching the fire men set up the play area.

I’m very vocal about my love for New York, but I can’t remember a time I ever proclaimed my love of America. I would never call myself a patriotic person. But I would call myself an optimistic person. (I know, I know, that totally goes against the New York cliché, but it’s just true.) Yesterday was full of optimism, hope, and happiness. It was surprisingly empty of political agenda. It made for a lovely event. I surprisingly felt more comfortable celebrating the efforts of our civil servicemen than I ever would have imagined.

I’m thankful to be reminded that individuals make up the forces that protect our country and city.

They deserve to be celebrated for the good they do and the sacrifices they made. They deserve that, no matter what issues we may have with the institutions.

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Whoa. Wait a second. This is too weird.

Just now I took a break from writing and learned about the Baltimore riots.

Now my brain hurts. And my heart too.

I never intended for this post to be about anything more than my experience at an event. I’d planned to continue, describing other aspects of said event. Now I think I have to stop. I’m going to publish the post. Quickly, before I read something that makes me lose all optimism, new-found respect, and hope.

Actually, yes. Let’s end with hope. Stars of Hope: an organization that strives to “empower children to bring hope to communities that have been devastated by disasters and or tragic sadness”. How they do this is simple but powerful- with hand painted stars. The ones on Sunday were painted to send hope to Nepal. Here are just a few of the many that were painted.

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Picture from Stars of Hope Facebook Page

Baltimore, I imagine you’ll have stars being sent your way very soon. For now, I know I’m sending all the optimistic hope I can muster. I also know I’m not alone.

About New York Cliche

NYC lifestyle blog by Mary Lane. Events, adventures, epic mistakes, dating, life, humor. A 20-something trying to make it (and make out) in the city of dreams.

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