BELMAR — Nineteen years ago, Tim Mahoney made a promise to hold a memorial run every year to remember those who lost their lives in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
It was a tradition that he was determined to keep, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I have promised everyone who has attended that I would be here every year and I keep my promises,” said Mr. Mahoney, a retired New Jersey state trooper who started the run the year after the tragedy. He was at ground zero by nightfall on the day of the attack on the World Trade Center.
On Friday, he kept his promise, joined by around 200 other runners who ran from 16th Avenue, in Belmar to the Spring Lake beachfront. In order to comply with state guidelines, runners wore face masks and kept six feet apart from one another as they ran in silence.
Usually, runners take turns reading out names of individuals who perished in the attack. This year, however, Mr. Mahoney read out the names of all 147 Monmouth County residents who died during the terrorist attacks, keeping the microphone to himself in order to prevent possible spread of the virus.
Names were read out on the Belmar boardwalk, at the 9/11 memorial near the town line of Spring Lake and Belmar and finally at the gazebo on Washington Avenue in Spring Lake, where a makeshift memorial was constructed out of steel.
Runners ran with flowers and miniature American flags, placing both at the final stop of the event.
On the Spring Lake beachfront, where the final reading took place, Mr. Mahoney encouraged those in attendance to shout out the name of a loved one who passed away on that day.
Bobby Lamb, of Lake Como, called out the name of his friend, Tommy Knox, of West Orange.
Mr. Lamb, who has attended the event for the past five years, said it was important to hold such events “so we don’t forget, so we keep these martyrs in our minds and in our hearts.”
Some runners said the event was a way to bring people together from this shared tragedy.
“This is, I think, one of the greatest ways for everyone to unite, not just when it happened … but now even more so,” said Dave DeMomico, of Ocean Township, who called out the name of a friend from his hometown, Chris Dincuff of South River.
Cheri Russo, a Belmar resident, said that she, like so many, remembers where she was on that day. Having family in the military, she said she “really thinks of everyone in my head who has served and who is serving right now.”
“You forget about your freedom until an event like 9/11 happens, we are so grateful that we have military members who have stepped up to give us our freedom,” she said.
It all started in 2002 when a small group of runners gathered at the Belmar boardwalk, near the intersection of Ocean and 16th avenues. They gathered to remember the 2,996 people who lost their lives in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, as well as the passengers of the United 93 flight who died when their plane crashed in a field outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Mr. Mahoney predicts that there will be a large turnout for the run.
“I am sure we will have our biggest turnout ever,” he said.
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